Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tribute to My Grandpa

Yesterday, the world lost an incredible man.

My grandfather, who had just turned 80 this year, passed away last night from cancer. It was very quick, and unexpected. We didn't even know he had cancer until very recently.

I am so grateful that we were able to go visit him this weekend. We were able to talk to him a little bit, and to give support to my grandma.

I've been thinking about him a lot the last few days, and a scripture keeps popping into my head.

It's in Mosiah chapter 2.
 23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? 
This scripture is about our Heavenly Father, but I've really found that it applies to my grandpa as well.

All my life, he's been there for me. He and my grandma paid for my college education when I attended Utah State University and when I went on my mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am indebted to them for so many reasons. However, it seems like whenever I try to do something for them, they instantly pay me, and I am only further in their debt. My grandparents are the greatest example of God-like service that I know.

When I attended BYU-I, they allowed me and my siblings to stay in their apartments for free. I was able to get a full-tuition scholarship as well, and because of that I came out of college debt-free.
When I married my husband, my grandparents again allowed us to stay in their married apartments for free. Because of that, we were able to pay off all of Kevin's hospital bills even though I had to have a c-section.

I can never pay back my grandparents for all the things that they have done for me.

One of my greatest desires was to someday approach my grandparents with a bunch of money and, at the very least, pay them back for my college tuition. I wanted to show them that the money that had invested in me had paid off, and that I hadn't wasted it.

I know that they wouldn't accept the money. That's not why they helped me out. However, it was still something I longed to do.

It hurts that now I'll never have the chance to say that to my grandpa.

It wasn't just me, either. They have spent thousands of dollars on their children and grandchildren. They were always there, willing to do anything they could to help us be successful. My grandpa leaves behind a legacy of love and service.

My grandpa is also the most intelligent and hardworking man that I know. Even in the hospital, he was still fixing and building computers. How many 80-year-old men know how to run a computer, let alone build one from scratch? His whole life, he's always been at the forefront of technology. He never retired.
This is one of my favorite pictures of my grandpa. He's in his element here, and doing what he does best

He taught me how to work. I began working on his apartments when I turned 11, and every summer I would work with my grandpa, dad, aunt, and siblings.

One of my favorite memories is when we were working all day on apartments, and we stopped for dinner. It was already dark, but we just sat on the porch of one of the apartments and talked. For some reason, that memory just has such a sense of tranquility for me. I loved working with him and I learned so many important skills. I am proud of my ability and strength that I gained from working. He helped me have high expectations for myself, and I've been really grateful that I've been able to help my grandparents again during the last few years.

I was also able to work for him in his computer store for a while, and I treasure the time I spent near him in the office. I learned a lot of important skills about keeping track of money and paperwork.

When I walked into his hospital room for the last time, he told me how beautiful I looked. I was a little surprised, because my grandfather has never really said things like that. He usually showed his love through service, and so his words meant a lot to me. He also told me he loved me. I knew he did, but I don't know that I've ever heard him say the words before that day.

He had the greatest sense of humor. Even though he couldn't speak above a whisper, he joked with my little "Superman" and smiled at my sister's baby. Even at the end, he was giving everything to his family.

We prayed and fasted for a miracle, but we didn't get the miracle we wanted. Instead, we got the miracle that he needed. His death wasn't long and lingering. He didn't have to be in pain for months and months, and I am so grateful for that.

My grandfather taught me about my Savior. He shared his testimony with me, and I loved to hear him pray when we would eat together. He was always kind to me and my family.

More than anything, I want my grandpa to be proud of me. I want him to see that everything that he invested in me was worth it. That I am worth it. I hope he knows how much I love him and how much I'm going to miss him. I want to live the rest of my life in a way that will make him proud.

I know that we can be together forever if I keep the covenants that I have made with my Heavenly Father, and that I will see him again. I have no doubt that my grandfather is resting now, and that Heavenly Father has an important mission for him on the other side.

I love you, Grandpa. Thank you, for everything. We'll miss you.
Until we meet again.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Foster Care Meetings 7&8

The last two foster care meetings were excellent. We finished our classes the Monday before Thanksgiving, and then everything has been a little crazy for a while. Between NaNoWriMo and some family concerns, the blog kind of got put on hold for a while. I'm hoping to do better from now on...but I have said that before.

Goals are good to have anyway.

Meeting 7: Long Term Separation; Adoption Issues for Families

This was a very interesting meeting. One of the primary reasons that we are looking to do foster care is because we would like to adopt some children. However, the main thing that we've learned through all of our classes is: if children can safely be with their parents, they WILL do better with their parents than with you.

In this class, we learned why. For the first part, a teenager in foster care came and talked to us. I can't go into any detail about her situation or most of the things she said, but it was really impressive how far she'd come and how well she was doing. We were supposed to have a larger panel, but the other teenagers weren't able to make it, so it was just one girl. It was really neat to hear things from her perspective though.

Here are my notes from this class:

  • The only way you adopt a a child through foster care is to have their family die. (Literally or figuratively. This was a tough one to hear. You want families to succeed, so in order for a kid to join your family, their family had to be so broken that there is no way they can return to their biological parents.) This point probably had the biggest impact on me.
  • When teens start creating their identity, they want to know where they come from. 
  • Plan how you're going to help your adopted children deal with their search for their bio parents.
  • We DO NOT talk to the children in foster care about adopiton until reunification is NOT POSSIBLE.
  • All questions and issues usually boil over during adolescence. 
  • Validate children's feelings. Don't dismiss the things they feel or say. Especially teenagers. 
  • Have open communication before an adopted child gets to the adolescent stage. They need to know EVERY aspect of their adoption story: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • If you lie about anything, to them, you lied about everything.
  • If possible, and healthy, allow them to talk to their birth parents. Continue communication. Base your decision on what is best for the child, not you.
  • Don't push the kids to say "I love you," and don't make them call you Mom or Dad. Let the relationship progress at the child's pace. 
  • Don't be afraid to talk about their parents with them. 
  • Treat them like your own children. 
  • Children will test us to see if we really care. Don't give up on them, NO MATTER WHAT!
  • If someone asks about foster children, don't introduce them as foster kids. Just say, "These are my kids."
  • We are going to mess up. Just don't give up.
  • Let the children guide the discussions. 
  • Honesty is ALWAYS the best. 
  • Don't wait for the kdis to bring things up. Talk about everything. 
  • Foster kids ARE different. Celebrate the differences and help them feel accepted BECAUSE of their differences. 
  • Adoption Loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful for it.
  • Children will go through the grief cycle. It may happen at any time adnthe children willtry to figure out what happened to them. 
  • What would it be like to never finish your process of self-creation? To never know the final piece that tell you who you are, and why you act the way you do? What would it be like to have no idea where you came from?
It was a really eye opening class for me. Life after adoption isn't cake. Even when children are infants, there are consequences that come from trauma. 

Open communication is so important for children who are in foster care and who are adopted. I think a lot of these things apply to children who are adopted through other means as well. The fact that they want to find their birth parents, doesn't mean they don't love their adopted parents. They are just trying to figure out who they are, and your biological parents are a big part of that. 

Meeting 8: Transcending Differences in Placements

Our last class was essentially about culture. The way we do things in our home is a culture, whether we recognize it as such or not. When children in foster care enter a home, they don't know how anything works, and everything foreign is another reason to feel uncomfortable. We need to try and incorporate our children's culture into our home when it is safe and appropriate to do so. 

  • What does your child like to eat?
  • Reunification, tell yourself they're going home. 
  • Build a relationship with bioparents. Ask them questions about what their children like and how to help them.
  • Don't focus on the things you don't have control over (like the court)
  • Save clothes receipts (Around $45 of the monthly reimbursement HAS to be spent on clothing.
  • People shouldn't be able to distinguish between your biological children and your foster children by how you treat them. 
  • Try and incorporate children's culture. 
  • Teenagers throw everything out that they've been told, and then they begin cherry-picking and forming their own identity. 
  • When children are given food they don't recognize, the brain's first reaction is to tell the child it isn't safe. 
  • Ask the children what they like to do with their family, and what their family does for things like birthdays. When a child comes into your home, everything is new. Have a flexible culture. 
  • Ask them what they want to do for their birthday, and then do it. 
  • What matters to them, needs to matter to you.
  • Am I aware of and sensitive to their culture?
  • They will be thinking literally. Don't expect them to conform to your culture. 
  • If you allow yourself to give up in team meetings, you eliminate your ability to help. 
  • What you don't talk out, you'll act out. 
  • Kids spell trust "t-i-m-e." 
For the very last thing that we did in our foster class, we watched the following video. The idea behind it is that "every child is just one caring adult away from being a success story."

I would highly recommend watching the video. I think it's applicable to everyone, even if they're not doing foster care. 

Here's the link: 

What next?

We've had a few people ask us what happens next. Our goal is to have foster kids by Christmas. We can't do our home inspection until we get our background checks done, and we can't go in any sooner than our appointment next week. Until then, we need to get our CPR/First Aid class done, and try and get our home ready for inspection.

We've had some pretty neat miracles. For example, we finally found someone who would haul away our hot tub and other garbage for free! It is so wonderful to have the junk that was left by the previous owners out of our home.

Here's everyone loading up the trailer.
Here's the backyard without the hot tub!
 Things seem to be going well. Both brother-in-laws are trying to find an apartment out of our home too. We're not sure how everything is going to work out yet, but I know the Lord is involved in it, so if we're supposed to have children from the foster care system in our home by Christmas, we will.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Foster Care Meeting 5 & 6

Class five and six were definitely easier classes, but they were also very important.

In class five, we learned about the biological parents. After talking so much about figuring out what was going on in children's minds, we were turning our attention to the "abusers" and "neglectors."

However, after talking about asking "why are they doing this," in relation to the children, it was pretty easy for me to transfer that same thought process toward the parents.

First, the instructor showed us a picture of a very messy home. He asked us to try and look at it in a positive way. Instead of finding things to scorn and find concerning, he asked us to look for positive areas in the home. Our job was to figure out what the parent was doing right, so we could work from there. We were also supposed to try and think of the best possible reasons that the house might be in that condition.

He explained that he had been to some extremely disgusting homes when he first became involved in the foster care program, and he had motioned to the mess around him and asked the parents, "What are we going to do about this?"

The parents would look at him with very obvious confusion and say, "About what? You should have seen my mother's house. Mine looks great compared to hers."

A lot of time, they simply don't know that there is a better way. If we are going to work with them, we need to find the good things that they are accomplishing so we can support, love, and care for them.

Some of the notes I took during this meeting, consisted of the following:

  • We need to think "why are they doing this? or why are they acting this way?" instead of "How dare they do this!" toward the parents.
  • If there is a cause for behaviors in children, why isn't there a cause for adults?
  • Never say anything bad about bioparents, especially in front of their children. If the kid wants to talk negatively about their parents, listen and validate their feelings, but don't encourage. 
  • We need to help parents get in a state where they think, "I can do that." Overwhelmed parents are not thinking parents. Don't be fearful, invite and aid. 
  • Try and see things from bioparent's perspective. They are living in the moment. They can't see the big picture, or waste time thinking about the future.
It was really interesting to think about things from a different perspective. We had entered this program to help children in need. I had never even thought about helping their families. However, as we watched some videos of parents who had previously had children in foster care, I realized how important it is that we don't give up on the children's parents too. 

A lot of these parents are no more than children in adults bodies still living in survival mode and struggling with their own abuse and trauma. They need the help as much as their children do. Instead of turning our backs on them and dismissing them as "failures," we need to be their support and encourage the progress they are making.

The instructor talked about how, especially with parents who are on drugs, that the trauma of having their children removed can send them spiraling even deeper into their addiction. By the time they finish the grief cycle, time is almost up (they have a year to prove to the judge that they are making substantial progress.) Often these parents will look at all the things that they are supposed to do and the amount of time they have left, and they will just give up. 

Reunification is the BEST option, if it is safe and possible. We need to treat these parents like human beings and have more empathy for what they are going through. I hope that we'll be able to help a lot of parents and children become reunited and functional.

In class 6, we talked about Managing Emotions & Behaviors and the Effects of Caregiving. In other words, this was the discipline class.

Grig and I had both been looking forward to this class, because we were hoping that it would help us with disciplining our three year old. It was somewhat gratifying to realize that we were already doing a lot of the things that he explained to us. 

For example, a while ago, we were trying to figure out how to help Kevin's reactions. He would start screaming when he didn't like something, and would become physical. We were at a loss, when suddenly it hit me that we could try role-playing. So, when something happened, and he reacted in a way that we didn't like, we would stop and practice the situation in a positive manner a couple more times. 

So it would go like this: 

Random friend: Kevin's Mom, Kevin is blocking the slide!
Kevin: *gives a grumpy and stubborn face*
Me: Kevin, would you like it if your friends wouldn't let you go down the slide?
Kevin: *grunts and doesn't respond*
Me: Would that make you happy?
Kevin: No.
Me: Okay, let's practice. You pretend to block me, and I'm going to ask you to stop. 
Kevin: *stands in front of me with arms stretched out*
Me: Please move, Kevin.
Kevin: Okay. *He moves out of the way*
Me: My turn. Now I'm going to block you.
Kevin: Please move out of my way.
Me: Very good! Let's try again!

It's been working really well for us, and has helped to teach him how he should react in those situations. He's been a lot easier to work with. You can't just tell a child how to stop a behavior, they have to have something to replace that behavior.

There are also some that we definitely need to work on, but overall, I don't think we are doing too badly as parents. 

Here are some of my notes from the discipline class:
  • Effective discipline is more concerned about stopping future behaviors, instead of current behaviors
  • Offer reasons and show child why they will benefit the child
  • Engage in positive discussions
  • The most effective parenting is teaching and showing 
  • You can't tell someone they can't do something, you have to give them another option
  • 3 things to ask before you deal with a child: 1-How am I feeling? 2- How is the child feeling? 3- If I continue with this path, how will this impact our relationship long-term.
  • Every interaction you have with a child teaches something. 
  • Always ask WHY. If we're questioning, we're staying in the logical part of our brain and not dropping into the emotional basement of our brain. The emotional part of our brain is the part that can be out-of-control.
  • Whenever you say, "Don't" you've only alerted their brains to what comes next. Most of the time, they won't hear the "don't." They'll only hear the second part, and they'll do it.
  • Notice good behaviors. Recognize them and praise the child. Acknowledge the progress they're making and help the child be aware of their own progress.
  • Negative attention is better than NO attention. A child will take what they can get.
  • Timing matters (how far along they are developmentally, understanding their age and what they can comprehend, how we and they are feeling in the moment.
  • Every behavior is purposeful. There's always a reason behind it. 
  • Have appropriate consequences, both good and bad. They need to make sense to your child. Control yourself. Our logic brain and our emotional brain are like the opposite ends of a teeter-totter. The higher one side, the less control the other side has. If we allow our emotions to be raised to high in our minds, we are only going to negatively impact our relationship. Wait until you're at least even. 
Image result for teeter totter public domain
  • Help them rewire their own brains. Positive reinforcement with immediate feedback. (The instructor explained it like a game of hot and cold. You're always giving feedback on how close they are getting to the target. Telling them they are colder isn't negative, it's useful. If a child comes in the room and you just stare at them, they won't know how to find the object.)
  • Explain what they are doing well, don't just tell them, "Good job."
  • When modeling a behavior, talk out loud and explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. 
It was a really good class, and I think it has already helped our parenting.

It's kind of funny. I've been training dogs for a long time, and a lot of what they are saying about parenting is pretty similar to dog training. For example, I learned that you should never discipline or train when you are angry. Anger will turn everything you do into a negative experience. If you're feeling your emotions rise, stop training. Resume when you are under control again.

Of course there are differences, but all the things the teacher was teaching us made sense to me.

He also mentioned one other important thing that I wanted to write down.

If you have a two-year-old, and you tell them no, they are going to throw a fit. There is no magic way to fix their behavior.

What did you expect? They're two.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Foster Care Meeting 3&4

Last week was pretty crazy. We had our foster care meetings on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Then, on Tuesday I donated blood, Friday night we had our Primary Program practice for church (for which I am the chorister) and fed the sister missionaries. Saturday night we also went to the temple. In my personal time, I still trying really hard to keep up with my writing, housekeeping, and my three-year-old.

Is it any wonder that I got behind on my blogging?

The meetings last week were the roughest ones to attend.

Foster care class 3 was about Trauma and Its Effects and Sexual Abuse.

The teacher showed us some pictures of abused children and their injuries. He started off simple (fingerprint bruises) and went all the way to 3rd degree burns on the feet and legs from being held into boiling water. Even as we discussed how children react to trauma, the instructor continued to remind us that we needed to keep reunification in our minds, no matter what state the children came to us in. Sometimes, the parents would only act this way when they were on drugs or drunk, and so the solution for reunification would be to get the parents off of their drugs.

If the parents are willing to do that, then reunification is possible.

I also took some notes. I wrote the following:

  • Before we assume there is a learning disability, remember the circumstances. Kids in survival mode don't care about education,
  • Whatever you experience as a baby will impact you for the rest of your life.
  • Show kids how relationships can be. 
  • If a child initiates a conversation about trauma, listen. Don't ask questions, let them guide the conversation. Then, afterward, write down everything you can remember that they told you and call the case worker.
  • Validate children's feelings.
  • If you burn all of your energy hating the peretrator, you won't have any energy left to help the child. 
  • Don't talk badly about a child's parents.

We also watched a short video called "Removed." It was really sad and taken from the child in foster care's perspective. I learned some pretty important things from the video. I learned that you never give up on a child. They might be just about to open up to you. If you turn away from them then, it will be difficult to for them to ever trust anyone again. 

I also learned that keeping siblings together is so important. Sometimes, older siblings become the parents to the younger ones, and when you separate them, it is another form of trauma that they have to endure.

We also talked about children who are sexually abused. That was a pretty rough segment of class too. The teacher told us that children who are sexually abused will not be returning to their abuser. Their abuser will be going to prison. However, they may be returned to the remaining parent or caregiver if the situation is deemed safe. 

No matter what, if the situation can become safe and the parents can show enough improvement, children will always do better with their biological parents. 

At the end of the class, the teacher had us pair up with someone we didn't know in the class. Once we had done that, he instructed us to decide who was going to talk first. The other person was just going to listen. Once we had decided who was speaking, he said, "Now I'm going to give you your topic...Describe the last intimate moment you had in detail."

Everyone stared at each other, and a lot of nervous giggles broke out. No one spoke. When he asked us why we were hesitating, people explained that they felt uncomfortable, they were embarrassed, or they felt that intimacy was meant to be private. 

After everyone had expressed their feelings, the teacher said, "Now, understand, that is exactly what you are asking these children to do who have been sexually abused. The judge and the courts will ask them to describe something that they have been taught is an expression of love to a group of strangers. Try to put yourself in their place."

He talked a bit about sexual predators and how they knew how to groom these kids into doing what they wanted them to do. They didn't usually threaten, instead they became friends and slowly as the relationship progressed, they will teach them how they want them to show their love. 

The instructor also told us that removal from these predators can be traumatic for the child, and if we were to ask them if they wanted to live with us, complete strangers, or the sexual predator whom they knew and trusted, they would pick the predator.

It was a difficult class, but we learned a lot of important things. 

Foster class number 4 was about Minimizing the Trauma of Placement. 

For this class, we started off with the lights off and we were asked to imagine a scenario with our eyes closed. He told us to imagine that class had been cancelled, so we went home and sat in our favorite spot. Then, as we were relaxing in this area, someone knocked on the door. When we answer it, he was standing there and he told us that we needed to go pack our things and come with him. He was going to take us to a better home with a really nice family. 

As I listened, I began to get really annoyed and frustrated. Basically, in my mind, I was saying, "Make me. The heck I'm going with you."

Then, he described loading us into his car and having us watch our homes disappear. Then he talked about driving for a while and coming to a new house with a bunch of smiling people and having him tell us that this was our new family. I imagined a rundown home and a bunch of maniacally smiling people. The irritation I felt began to become frustration as a sense of helplessness flowed through me. It sent tingles up my arms. 

Afterward, he asked us how we felt and our reactions. After listening, he told us that we really needed to understand how the children were feeling. No matter their home situation, their house was a familiar place. No one wants to be taken from their home and placed at a stranger's home. Was it any wonder that they may not like us at first?

Here are some things I wrote down from this meeting:
  • Allow children to eat what they're familiar with. Gradually, as they learn to trust you, they will try new things.
  • Explain to Kevin that the other children may need special allowances.
  • Don't tell, show. Model proper behavior. Teach through our actions. 
  • Before you can help a child go somewhere else, go to where they are, and then you can move together. 
  • "I'm sorry you're upset."
  • Confidentiality is a BIG deal. 
  • To deal with a sexually responsive child, prevention and observation are the most important thing.
  • Don't give up on children. They may be coming around just as you abandon them.
  • "This is a safe place and I won't let anyone ____ you, so I can't let you ____ anyone because this is a safe place."
  • Create lifebook using child's entire life, not just with you. 
  • Give choices, allow the child to feel control over some aspect of their lives.
  • Ideas for transitions: Allow child to pick one wall color or bedding. Just do normal things. Establish rules before children come. Adapt to child when they come.
  • Keep rules as basic as possible. Address issues as they arrive. Family book. 
  • Ask what makes child feel safe. (Watch, observe)
  • Give opportunities to express themselves freely. 
  • Be mindful of transitions and other emotional "hot spots" (meals, food, bedtime, physical boundaries.)
  • Be honest and open in regards to their future. 
We also finished watching the second part of "Removed." 

The most important thing he kept stressing was ask "Why?" Don't get upset by the child's actions. Simply ask, "Why are they acting that way?" Once you are able to understand where they're coming from and why they are reacting the way they are, you will have more patience with their behaviors and you will be able to help them where they are. 

This meeting wasn't quite as difficult, but it was still sad. It was hard to realize that there is no easy solution for these poor children in foster care. It's traumatic to be taken from your home, no matter how awful your home is. You still have bonds and connections there, and everything is familiar. 

It's really good to understand why children might be acting out. I'm really grateful that we have been taking these classes. It's helped us to talk about things that we may never have discussed, and it's brought us closer as a couple. We've learned a lot about child psychology, and it's helped us to be better parents for Kevin. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

National Novel Writing Month

If you've been following my blog for a while, you probably remember that the last three or four years I've been participating in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo.

This is again the case this month.

If you're interested in writing, during the month of November there is a site at nanowrimo.org where you can sign up for free and keep track of how many words you write. Their goal is 50,000 during the month of November. Your own personal goal can be more or less than that.
Image result for nanowrimo
I am currently on the third rewrite of my novel, and I'm up to 10,899 words. My cousin, who is amazing, has already hit 50,000 (not that I'm comparing, I just think she's awesome).

My goal this November actually has nothing to do with number of words, though it is oddly motivating for me to see how many I write every day and I still would like to achieve 50,000 by the end of the month. Instead, my goal is to completely finish rewriting before November is over and start submitting my book to agents by the end of the year.

Hopefully 2017 will be the year I finally get published.

I'm pretty excited about my book right now. Sometimes, my brain gets so involved in it, that I can't sleep, which happened last night. I was trying to go to bed early so I could get up and write, but instead my mind was trying to figure out the phases and orbits of three moons around a planet if one of the moons is in geostationary orbit.

Fun, right?

Creating a world is pretty exhilarating. You can basically make anything you want. I like mine to fit within scientific rules that we already know, but after that, the possibilites are endless! Tweak the size of the planet and gravity becomes less. Creatures can get bigger than they can on Earth and lift heavier things.

It's exciting.

I've been writing since I could write. I have some pretty funny books that I wrote in 1st grade that I've kept for years, and one of the stories that I'm writing, I have been working on since 2nd grade. That particular book is on its second rewrite, but it was put on pause because the book I'm rewriting now if much further developed.

Anyway, if anyone is interested in writing a novel this month, it's not too late to sign up. It's been a little difficult for me to write this month, due to the foster care classes, being a mom, and other schedule changes, but I'm still doing it.

You can too, if you want to.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Foster Care Meeting 2

Last night was an interesting night. We dropped Kevin off at my cousins' apartment on our way to the meeting. We left early, but rush-hour traffic still caused us to be late. We couldn't have left any earlier either. Grig gets home between 4:45-5:00. We left the home at 5:55. It was supposed to take 27 minutes, and it took 38 minutes. That was pretty annoying, but things got better when we got to the meeting.

While enjoying dinner, we began to learn about child development.

First we talked about age appropriate landmarks and then we took a quiz to see how well we knew our child development. I got about half of the questions right, but as I looked over my answers, I realized that I had gotten all the ones right that fell into my son's age group and under. Anything older than my son was much more shaky. I suppose that made sense.

One of the things I learned last night was that Kevin is entirely age appropriate at the moment. The instructor talked about how between the ages of three and four, children merge reality and imagination. He described a kid who he saw at the store who was dressed as Spiderman and who believed with all his heart that he WAS Spiderman. As he was telling this experience, I couldn't help but think of Kevin.

Nearly everyday right now, I'll ask Kevin to do something, and he'll say, "My name is not Kevin. My name is Superman." Just yesterday, he told me, "I have two names: Superman and Clark."

I asked, "Don't you have three names? Isn't Kevin your name too?"

He shook his head and said, "No. Superman and Clark Kent."

Depending on the day, and what he is wearing, his persona changes, but he is very rarely Kevin right now. Sometimes he is "Blue Man" or "Waterman," but usually he is Superman.

The instructor went on to say that this is healthy for this age and we shouldn't discourage it. They'll grow out of it, but right now they're developing key parts of their brain by pretending and it will make their minds healthier. It won't hurt them, and it doesn't hurt us. He encouraged us to let them pretend.

Next we talked about developmental delays. He told us that when people experience traumatic events, it puts their minds in a kind of freeze. The mind goes into survival mode, and stops developing mentally. Once the danger is passed, then their mind begins to develop, but it starts at whatever point it froze. He told us that most children in foster care have a developmental delay.

We were instructed that we needed to figure out where the child was mentally so that we could understand and be less frustrated with their behavior. If you know a child is 9, but mentally is six, it is much easier to understand their behaviors. It is also easier to have patience, and know how to help them. However, he cautioned us not to simply accept the current mental age. The idea behind foster care is to identify where they are at, and then to help them to grow. Once they enter a safe environment (our home) they can begin to age again, and we should help them to do so as well as we can.

The next section of the class talked about a reverse bicycle. He showed a video of a man who was dared to ride a reverse bicycle. If you turned the handle bar one way, the wheel went in the opposite direction. The man was confident that he could ride, but no matter how hard he tried, the bike would tip over. He discovered that the brain is wired a certain way, and you can't just tell it to change. So, for months he practiced ten minutes a day on the reverse bicycle. After about 9 months (I think that was how long, it might have been a little longer), something suddenly clicked and he could do it. He did the same experiment with his son who had only been riding a bike for three years, and it only took his son two months.

There were some important lessons to be learned from this example. One of the things was that you can't just tell someone to do something. You have to teach them how. It isn't easy to rewire a brain. Children's minds are more malleable, and they are able to learn new behaviors more quickly, but we need to have patience with them and their birthparents.

The goal of foster care is reunification. We are supposed to be trying to not only help the children, but their parents too. Only when that isn't possible are foster children adopted. As we were talking about that, I realized something.

The goal of foster care is to save families.

That was like a hammer blow in my mind. We are here to help not only the children, but their parents. If we have some children come and join our family, it will only be because after our very best efforts, things just didn't work out with their parents. We plan on giving it our best effort too. Studies have shown that when children can be with their birthparents and the situation can be improved, it is ALWAYS better for the child.

It is only when the child's safety is at risk and the birthparent can't or won't change their own behaviors that the children are removed permanantly. If the birthparent is showing that they're trying, they will extend the time that the children are simply removed until the parent's behaviors have changed enough. They won't take away the parent's right unless they are showing no improvements.

We learned some other interesting things last night about different developmental levels, and at the end we talked about teenagers.

We watched a final video from a man who studies the ways that minds work, and he told us that there are several reasons that teenagers act the way that they do. He told us that they have decreased dopamine levels and increased reactive levels. Essentially that means that the part that cautions them against dangerous things is reduced, while those chemicals that enjoy risk and excitement are increased. He explained that this was because teenagers were "preparing to leave the nest" and needed to have less caution in order to do so. They needed to be willing to change, take new risks, and challenge old perceptions.

He told us that we needed to be less critical of teens, and more compassionate and empathetic. We needed to allow them to think in new ways and to use their innovation. We also need to help impart some of the caution that they may be lacking.

I've really been enjoying these classes. He gave us some homework, and let us leave half an hour early.

We drove back to my cousin's apartment complex and parked the car. As we did so, I briefly thought, "I wonder if we need a permit?" However, we were only going up to get Kevin, so I decided not to worry about it.

We walked upstairs, talked to my cousins for a few minutes, retrieved Kevin (who was very happy and very much awake), and returned to our car, only to find it booted and a note on the window.

That wasn't a very pleasant end to the evening. After we had called the number, a young man showed up. I explained our situation. I told him that we hadn't been aware that you needed a permit to park here, we had just been here long enough to fetch our son, and if we had known, we wouldn't have parked in the parking lot. He was sympathetic, but their rules were firm. Evidentally, if you parked there after 9 without a permit, you were booted. There was no visitor parking. It was 9:30, so we were just out of luck.

Thirty minutes later and seventy-five dollars poorer, our car was freed and we were on our way home. Both of us were a bit upset by that. Honestly, my mind kept saying, "That isn't fair. We didn't know the rules, and no one warned us. We've been doing good things. Why did this have to happen tonight." It didn't help that we didn't get home until 10 p.m. and we had to wake up at 4:00 a.m.

Bad things often happen after good experiences, but it's important not to let the bad things sour the good experience. I feel much less frustrated this morning. I think it's going to be a good day today, and I'm really enjoying our foster classes.

One of my favorite things about them is that Grig and I are doing them together. It is really fun to sit with my husband for four hours and to be able to talk and learn together about something that is interesting to both of us.

We're excited for next weeks' classes!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Foster Care Meeting 1

Yesterday night, we went to our first foster care training meeting. I was pretty excited about it, even though it was supposed to be four hours long (and it was). 

The instructor was pretty hilarious. He was entertaining and the time went really quickly. It was a lot like the first college class period. He told us what to expect for the next seven classes, what his goals were, and what he expected from us. 

One of his biggest points was that we needed to make sure that we were doing this for the right reason. It wasn't supposed to be about us, it was supposed to be about the children. He talked about misconceptions and told us that generally foster kids aren't out to murder our pets. In fact, he'd never heard of a single case of that happening. 

We watched a video about a young man who had "aged out" of foster care. That means that he turned 18 while still in the system and was never adopted. Even as a successful business man, you could still hear the pain in the man's voice as reflected on his feelings about why he had never been adopted. It was pretty sad. He told us that children who age out of the foster care system nearly always struggle with feelings of self-worth. No matter how successful they become, they always wonder why nobody wanted them.

He asked us to keep an open mind about the ages, genders, and circumstances of the children that we are going to be helping. 

Grig pointed out that foster care is a bit of a paradox. You are supposed to bring the kids in your home, agree to potentially adopt them if things don't work out with their birth mom, and yet put all of your efforts into get them reunified with their birth families. We're not sure how that's going to work out yet, but we're still feeling good about the path we're on. 

He brought up two chart that showed reasons that people decide to foster. The first chart were the good reasons that helped to make foster care effective. All of our reasons were on this first chart. It was things like: infertility, desire to help the children, have a bigger family, and adoption. The other chart were reasons that didn't really work. These were things like: income (hoping that foster care would earn you money), a playmate for your child, or because your family was pressuring you to have children. 

He also talked about parenting techniques. We didn't go into too much detail, because that will be covered in another class, but the things he said have already helped me to be a better parent today.

A few weeks ago, Kevin was melting down all the time. He would just cry and scream for an hour or two. Last night, the instructor told us that punishing a child, or disciplining them for acting out is ineffective unless you solve the reason WHY they're acting out. A tantrum is nearly a way of expressing a deeper problem. 

Kevin hasn't done that in a few weeks, but today after preschool, he suddenly had a major fit. For nearly an hour, he screamed and cried. I kept my cool pretty well, but after trying everything, I finally began praying and I remembered what the instructor had said. Kevin had only eaten a little for lunch, and he had been playing hard ever since. I figured out he was probably hungry. (Candy doesn't fill you up after all.) 

I began to cook food. He screamed about everything I was doing, but when I handed him a meatball, the crying ceased. As soon as he was done eating that and the rest of his food, he was a different child. My happy little guy was back. 
We sure love this kid.
I'm pretty grateful for the things that I've already been learning. I'm hoping to be a much better person, parent, and wife after I finish the training. Even if we weren't doing foster care, I feel like these will help me improve my parenting style. 

Kevin had a great time playing with some friends while we were at the meeting, and he fell asleep at their house. We brought him home and he went right to bed. It was a successful night. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween 2016

We had a most excellent Halloween.We started the day off with preschool, and Kevin and the dogs dressed up for that. Arkhon didn't really like his costume, but Siff seemed to enjoy it. 

We had a fun Halloween preschool. We made masks, drew the letter H on balloons, and learned about our primary colors. After Kevin's classmate went home, we worked on getting ready to go trick-or-treating. Kevin tried on a couple other costumes too!

Once Grig came home, we carved our pumpkin. We had taken Kevin to the store the week before and told him to pick out a pumpkin. We were going to buy three, but when he picked this monster, we decided one was enough. Next year we may have to implement a rule one of my walking friends just told me about. In her family. They had to be able to carry their pumpkin to the car. That is such a good idea!

We each took a side of the pumpkin, since it was so big.

 Grig cut off the top, Kevin and I gutted it, and then we each drew on our creation. Kevin's was tricky because it wasn't really easy to cut out, but after he directed us, we managed to cut out what he wanted.

I also made dinner so we could eat before we went Trick-or-treating.

 Meanwhile, Siff tried on goggles. She was pretty cute.

We finally finished. Kevin loved carving pumpkins! He enjoyed every second of it.
 Here are the final works of art!

 After we finished eating, we went out with some friends and Trick-or-treated for a while. We brought Siff along with us, and she had a great time. Kevin was a hit, and he loved saying, "Trick-of-Treat" and "Happy Halloween." He and his friends took turns ringing and knocking on the doors.

Here's Siff in her costume. Arkhon was not happy about being left home. 
We were supposed to be over at my Great Aunt's apartment complex by 7:30 pm. I looked at my watch and realized half-way around our block that it was 7:26. We quickly realized we weren't going to make it in time and called to tell her that we wouldn't be arriving until a little later.

We finished knocking around our block and headed off; only to find that in our hurry, we had forgotten one of Kevin's shoes.So, barefoot, we entered my great aunt's complex.

Kevin made off like a bandit. My aunt and a friend stuffed Kevin's little bucket full, since we were nearly the last people to visit. It was pretty adorable. We thanked them, took a few pictures, and then drove to my grandma's house. They took the following picture of us.
 Havelock and Allopex were nice and manned the door. They handed out candy while we went out and knocked for more. Kevin loves his uncles, and they were really nice to help out. It is sometimes really nice to have them living in the basement.

We got home late, but we had a really good time. Kevin loved Halloween! I asked him what he was going to be next year, and he gave me a funny look, as though he couldn't believe I didn't already know, and stated obviously, "A T-rex." We'll see if he still feels the same way next Halloween.

When he said his prayers that night, he thanked Heavenly Father for the pumpkin carving, the trick-or-treating, and the candy. Grig and I really enjoyed ourselves too.

I adore Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pumpkin Walk

A couple of days ago we went to the pumpkin walk that held in our neighboring city.

It was pretty awesome. The theme was America. Basically, it's this area that has a path that travels around the edge of it. On one side were some pretty epic displays, and on the other were carved pumpkins.

We had Kevin wear his costume so he would be warmer (and so we could show it off. I put a lot of work into that costume and we wanted to get as much use out of it as possible).
 This is one of our favorite displays. It was John Williams themed, who is one of my favorite composers. Kevin was pretty excited to see Superman.
 There was also a Norman Rockwell display. Grig and Kevin posed in front of this one, because it is a female welder, and Grig's a welder. It seemed appropriate.
 I really liked the way they made the dog in this one. The displays were pretty impressive, and Kevin was really excited by all the pumpkins. The fact that he had a good time made the whole trip worth it.
 We found another Superman later. This one was even cuter, and some nice stranger took the picture for us so that we could all be in it together.
 After all the displays, they had a bunch of those photo boards where you could poke your head through. This one was particularly funny.
 However, my favorite picture of the night had to be the following one. Grig and I wanted to pose in this one, but we didn't expect the t-rex to pop up behind us. Kevin looks pretty creepy!
 Then, we got in the car. Kevin told me I was the driver.
 This picture is another one that I really like. Kevin looks adorable as Yoda.
We had a really good time, and our grateful to all the awesome people who put this thing together. We went on the last night, but hopefully we'll make this a family tradition. Maybe next year we can help.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Foster Care

Over the last few months, Grig and I have been trying to figure out what the next step should be for us.

We've been trying to conceive again for almost four years now...with no luck. We love Kevin and we're so grateful to have him, but our home still feels like there are more children that are meant to be part of our family.

Foster care and adoption have come up a few times, and we've had some interesting experiences that have made us consider them very seriously. We felt pretty strongly about it back in July, but then I went to Idaho to work for two months and the subject was put on hold.

About two weeks ago, we started talking about it again. During General Conference (for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), I was praying about it, and the next day when I got on facebook, there was a huge advertisement informing me that there was going to be a foster care meeting held in our neighboring city in a few days. That seemed like too much of a coincidence, so we RSVP'd back to the people in charge and told them that we'd be coming.

About a week and a half ago, we drove to attend. Before we entered, Grig and I prayed that we would know what we were supposed to do and that we would know if we were supposed to begin foster care.

The meeting was fantastic! They showed a video that made both of us cry and they talked a lot about common misconceptions with fostering. After the meeting, both Grig and I felt like this was something that we were supposed to pursue right now, and we spoke to the woman in charge.

There are a few things that we need to do in order to be licensed. On Thursday, we're having an initial consultation, so the representative can evaluate us, our home, and instruct us on what we need to do in order to proceed.

I'm pretty excited! That's only a couple of days away. We both feel very strongly that we're making the right decision, and ever since then it seems like every movie or tv show we watch has something about foster care or adoption.

Moving forward with foster care doesn't mean we're giving up on our other options either. In the first week of November, I have an appointment with my doctor to do a check-up, and find out what's going on with me. Hopefully it is easily resolvable, and we'll be able to naturally have more children.

Either way, things are moving forward with adding more children to our home. I'm stoked. Kevin's going to be such a good brother. He loves babies and is so sweet with them.

The dogs are almost completely trained too. They're going to do well with whatever happens. I've heard that owning animals can be very beneficial to foster children too; especially well-trained, loving animals.

So, there's an update on some of the decisions we're making right now. I'll try to keep you informed. Life is moving forward.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Limber Tail Syndrome

Yesterday, I woke up to find something wrong with Siff.

Her usually tightly curled tail was horizontal with her back. When I lifted it, it dropped back down like a limp noodle, and she seemed unable to curl it or wag it. When she sat down, she didn't seem to be able to even exert the control to move it out of her way.

Very concerned, I texted my husband. I told him that I was worried that her tail was either dislocated or broken. I asked if I should call the vet, which I really wanted to do, but not without talking to Grig first.

He gave an affirmative answer, and I quickly phoned our vet. She is amazing, and told me that she could come by our home by 1:30 p.m. She is an At Your Door Veterinarian, and so she comes to our home to give shots and do exams. I used to work for her in college, and she's one of my favorite people.

I really enjoyed worked as a Veterinarian Assistant, and I learned a lot from her. I knew she would know if Siff's tail was dislocated or broken. I didn't remember her being injured or yelping. If it was broken, it seemed like I would have heard something or noticed it sooner.
This is how it hung all day yesterday. It was very strange.
We went on a nice long walk to get the excess energy out of the dogs, but Siff was pretty tired at the end. Her energy level wasn't anywhere near normal. It was weird though, because she didn't seem to be in pain either.

The vet arrived promptly at 1:30. She greeted the dogs and tried to hug Siff, but she was too excited. She asked me if Siff ever calmed down enough to hug, because she looked so huggable. I told her that she was super huggable and that she quickly calmed down.

Then, she examined Siff. After a few minutes, she told me that the tail didn't feel broken or dislocated, and Siff didn't seem to be in very much pain. Then, she told me that she had seen this kind of situation before. I guess some dogs, especially Labradors, hounds, and other hunting dogs, will sometimes get limp tails like this. They call it Limber Tail Syndrome or No Wag Syndrome. They usually get it after long periods of rest followed by sudden exercise or after swimming in cold water. She wasn't sure how Siff had gotten it, and neither was I. We've been walking, but not an extreme amount.

She wondered if it might have to do with Siff's heat. She told me that she had once seen a German Shepherd that had gone lame when it entered its heat. That makes sense, since there is a softening of some tissue when dogs go into heat.

She gave us some anti-inflammatory drugs, and, after a few more minutes, left.

Today, Siff's tail is already better.

This is how it usually sits on her back.
I looked up Limber Tail Syndrome yesterday, and on the internet it said that many veterinarians have not even heard of it because it is such a rare condition. I'm really grateful that our veterinarian had and was able to diagnose it. It definitely was comforting to know that nothing really serious was wrong with our baby girl.

It was kind of a funny realization too, how much we care about her.

Grig grew up on a farm, so he's always been a little bit on the "dogs are tools, not family," side of things. I didn't feel entirely the same, but our dogs were always outdoor dogs, and so I loved them, but they weren't a huge part of our lives.

Siff and Arkhon are. They are with me nearly 24 hours a day, and we do tons of things with them. They aren't on the same level as Kevin, our son, but they are definitely part of our family.

At the thought of Siff being severely injured, both Grig and I got pretty stressed about it. He was surprised later by how bothered and upset he was. We have fantastic dogs. They are very well trained, and rarely cause us stress. Mostly, they are stress relievers.

We're so grateful that our beautiful Norwegian Elkhound is alright. I'm also really grateful for our Veterinarian. She is wonderful.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rainy Day Miracle

A couple of weeks ago, a couple friends and I decided to start walking together. We walked Monday through Friday last week and had beautiful weather everyday. 

I have two dogs and a kid. One of my other friends had two dogs and a baby, and the other friend has two kids and a three-legged dog. 

This week has started on a completely different note though. For the last two days, it's been raining nearly constantly. The great thing about walking with other people though is that it kind of forces you to get up and go, regardless of the weather. 

It wasn't raining when I left the house, but by the time we got to the park where we meet, it began pouring. Kevin began to cry and we quickly put his sweater on (he had refused it before). The other friend with two dogs had almost reached us, but she didn't have a rain cover on her stroller yet, so she had to turn back home. We didn't blame her.

My other friend was waiting at the park, and we stopped at her house quickly and grabbed a couple of extra blankets. However, even with the blanket, the wind was blowing cold rain into Kevin's face, so I took off my sweater and covered the front of the stroller with it.

A few moments later, the rain stopped. We kept walking up the sidewalk, and then I suddenly noticed something. We were completely surrounded by storm clouds on all sides, but right above us, the sky was blue. 

I pointed this out to my walking friend, and I told her I thought it was a blessing from Heavenly Father because we'd gone walking even though it was raining. 

For the rest of the walk, the sun came out and it warmed up. However, as we finished up the walk, the storm clouds rolled back in. Shortly after we entered the house it began raining again. 

Some people might say that was a coincidence, but I don't believe that. I know it was a tender mercy and a miracle. 

The Lord does care about us and what we're doing. Even something as seemingly unimportant as a walk. I'm so grateful for another example of the Lord's love for me. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Dog's First Heat

I have sure learned a lot this last week and a half!

I've been a dog owner since 1998. Before that, I was a major dog enthusiast. I read everything I could get my hands on, and I devoured dog encyclopedias and literature like a starving baboon.

In 2003, I bred my dog successfully and raised and sold a litter of eight puppies.

At that point, I thought I had dog heats all figured out.

It turns out, I pretty much knew nothing.

Growing up, our dogs were outside dogs, and so the heat wasn't that big of a deal. If they bled a little, it was outside, so you very rarely could find evidence of it.

Having an indoor dog on heat is a completely different story.

It turns out that every dog in estrus reacts differently to the hormones raging through their fuzzy little bodies. I don't remember if Dakota bled that much, but Siff certainly does. She started bleeding last Tuesday (the 4th). I probably wouldn't have noticed for a while, but Arkhon was quick to point out that something wasn't right. At first, the blood flow was fairly light, so I was just going to leave her alone and let her clean up after herself.

Halfway through the afternoon, I changed my mind and, at a suggestion from a friend, improvised this:
It's one of my old t-shirts turned backwards with a feminine pad placed in the rear of it. It worked okay, but it was too loose, and so it wasn't very effective. The blood went everywhere, but on the pad.

So, that day I ordered some washable dog diapers. They arrived on Thursday, and things have been so much better. We received three with a washable insert. The diapers are made to help with incontinence, so when we eventually spay Siff, we can still use them if the dogs ever struggle with that.

The diapers came in pink, blue, and orange. I kind of love them.The orange one is especially a good color for Siff. Here is the pink one:
If you're interested in dog diapers, we really like the brand we bought. They've been really easy to clean too.

So, I thought the bleeding stage of the heat lasted 2-3 days at most. It turns out that it is closer to 7-10. She's still has some dark red bleeding, though it is slowing down. When it turns to a pink color and becomes more watery, that is when the dog is fertile and read to breed.

The other interesting thing I learned, is that dogs don't bleed for the same reason as humans. That makes sense, since the blood comes before the dog is fertile. In women, we bleed afterward due to our bodies shedding our uterus lining. All other animals reabsorb their lining. Humans are unique in that aspect. No one actually knows the reason that dogs bleed.

It also turns out that being in estrus can impact a dog's mood, much as it does humans. Dogs usually either become more cuddly or rather cranky. For the most part, Siff has been super cuddly. Usually she's a little more standoffish, but for the last week she has been constantly leaning against people. Tonight she was trying to get my attention and gave a little "woof" at me. She's never done that before.

Once the external vulva's swelling goes down, we won't have to worry about her getting pregnant anymore. That can be 4-7 days later. A dog can be "in heat" for two to three weeks. (Link) We're just grateful this is only going to happen every six months or so.

Honestly, if you're not going to breed your dog, save yourself a headache and get her spayed. Life will be a lot easier on you. Siff is only eight months old, so she is too young to breed, but eventually we want to bring a couple litters of elkhounds into this world. Before that though, it's dangerous for the female's health if you breed her too early. Most authorities recommend not breeding your dog before she is two years old.

It's been an interesting week. It will be nice when Siff doesn't have to put diapers on every time she comes into the house.

It's worth it for us though. She's going to be such a great mother.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Corn Maze

On Saturday, we had a pretty busy day. Some friends had invited us to their son's baptism, we wanted to go to the temple, and we were having a family party at lunch. Somehow, everything fit into the schedule, and it wasn't even too crazy. 

The final part of our day though, was going to Fall Festival with our friends. We've previously called them the Trebuchet family and they're the ones who own Arkhon's brother Loki. Kevin and their second girl, who we call Florence, spent most of the trip holding hands and walking around together. 
 It was pretty adorable. As soon as they saw each other, they were pretty much stuck together. We paid our entrance fee, and wandered around for a few minutes while we figured out what we wanted to do first.
Here's the three older kids. They had a blast!

After a few minutes, we decided that we should do the pony ride and the train before they closed at 7:00. So, we stood in line for a while, and then, after putting on helmets, Kevin was able to ride a horse all by himself!

He was pretty excited, and the ponies had really good temperaments. They got to walk in a circle two or three times, and then their turn was over, but it was a good few minutes for the kids. Right before he was lifted down, he patted his ponies neck and thanked him.  
 Then, we went on a train ride. The older three kids all rode at the very end of the train in the prison caboose. They loved it! When we went back to help them our of their prison, Florence and Joan came right out, but Kevin wanted another ride. When we told him that his turn was over, and if he wanted another ride we had to go stand in line again, he nearly had a break down. Eventually, we were able to coax him from the caboose and we got back in line again. If he had been in charge, we would have kept going all night.
 He LOVED the train. We enjoyed it too, but after two times and a steadily longer line, we went to eat dinner instead.

We had brought our own food, and our friends were awesome and shared some of their snacks with us. We shared some of our dehydrated apples with them too.

After we finished eating, it became pretty cold, so Grig ran back to the car and got our coats. Then, we wandered slowly over to the corn maze. On the way we played on hay-bales, shot a bb gun (that we're pretty sure wasn't working), and took a group picture.

The corn maze was pretty tricky. It was huge! At first, we just wandered around and tried to find our way without assistance. However, after about an hour, the kids were beginning to get tired. I'll be honest, I'm pretty useless inside of mazes like this. I have no directional sense at all. We reached an edge of the corn maze and we stopped and pulled out our map. It took us a few minutes to figure out where we were, and then we began to follow the map. As we went, it quickly became apparent that we were on the right track. My friend's husband B took the lead and the rest of us herded children behind him. Grig helped direct us for a while, but most of our flashlights died, so B ended up being our sole navigator.

As we went, we began to collect an entourage. We began finding people who had no idea where they were and who were ready to get out of the maze. It took another hour and a half (I told you the maze was huge), but we finally emerged at the end. By that time, we had at least three groups of people following us. They thanked us, and continued on to their various activities.

We had reached the end at the perfect time too. Kevin was done.

He was tired and ready to go home. We thanked our friends and then went home. Half-way there, Kevin fell asleep.

As we were driving home, Grig and I began talking about how much we liked showing people the way out when they were lost. We've been the "smart people" before, and had people follow us out of mazes, and every time it is a lot of fun. However, as we were talking, we came to the realization that we would never follow anyone else out of a maze. We liked to give help, but we weren't very good at taking it. We like to figure out things on our own. It was okay to follow B out tonight, because we had helped him figure out where we were, and he was part of our group, but we would never follow another group of people out.

It's nice that other people are more humble than we are so that we can help them.

It was a great night!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

That One Time I Nearly Poisoned My Entire Family

On Monday, we were having preschool and we went outside to look for things that started with the letter d. We found dogs and dirt and lots of chestnuts from the neighbor's tree. 

So, we began to "drop" rock on the green shells to open the chestnuts and get the brown nuts from inside. We collected quite a few, and then the idea came to me that we should try and roast the chestnuts. They looked delicious, and even though I don't like most kinds of nuts, I was willing to try them. 

So, I sent home a few with the other little girl, and then, when Grig got home, we went out and picked up some more from our lawn and took them inside. We looked up how to make oven-roasted chestnuts. 

First, you take them out of their green shell (which we had already done). Then, we poked all of the nuts with forks so the steam could escape. We then drizzled the chestnuts in water and stuck them in the oven which was preheated to 400 degrees.

After 20 minutes, we took them out and began to peel them. It took a long time, but after we finished one, I gave it to Kevin to try.

He took a little nibble, and gave it back. "Do you like it?" I asked him.

"No," he said, "it's yucky."

"Ok," I said, assuming that he just had a palate like his mother. So, I decided to try it. 

I took a bite, and a strong, bitter, nasty flavor filled my mouth. I was pretty disgusted. I don't like most kinds of nuts though, so I wasn't super surprised that I didn't like it.
I kept peeling nuts, assuming that when I was done, we could grind them up and use them in food, even if we didn't like them.

Grig came in from showering and he began to help me shell the nuts. I gave him the rest of the nut that Kevin and I had tried, and he popped the rest of it in his mouth.

"How is it?" I asked. "Does it taste like a chestnut."

He nodded, and made an "Mmmm" sound, and then I watched his expression change. His look of pleasure quickly faded into a look of disgust. He finished chewing and swallowing, then said, "That tasted pretty gross."

He came and started helping me shell the rest anyway. 

Allopex, Grig's brother, came up next, and I gave him a different nut to try. Havelock wasn't home. The nut I gave Allopex peeled really easily and looked fresh and tender. I figured that if any of the nuts were going to taste good, it was going to be that one. 

However, after a small bite, he expressed the same aversion to the flavor.

We kept peeling for a few minutes, but then Grig said, "Why don't we just go give the rest of these back to the deer if they taste this bad."

They were difficult to peel anyway, but I'm stubborn. I kept doggedly peeling the chestnuts. Finally, after a few minutes, I agreed to give up. I didn't like them anyway, I just hated wasting food.

Someone, I think it was Allopex, made the comment, "Maybe there are different varieties of chestnut?"

So, I decided to look it up. What I found was pretty interesting. 

This is what our chestnuts looked like. These are all over the place, and Grig had identified them as chestnuts. He wasn't wrong.

However, this is what edible sweet chestnuts look like:

If they're edible, they have a lot of sharp, angry-looking spines and the nut has a tassel on one end.

The chestnuts in our yard are actually called Horse Chestnuts. And guess what?

Surprise, surprise, not only are they not edible, but they are actually toxic. Animals don't even like to eat them. They're pretty poisonous. 

No wonder they tasted so bitter!

Grateful that my husband was less stubborn that I was (and grateful that we didn't try to make bread out of toxic chestnuts), I quickly called my neighbor and told her not to eat the horse chestnuts. 

No one exhibited any symptoms of poisoning, and from what I was reading, it sounds like you have to eat quite a few before you'll really get sick or die. We laughed about it quite a while though.

Havelock was grateful that he missed the poisoning, and the rest of were grateful that nature was kind enough to warn us by making them taste so awful. 

So, before you eat chestnuts or other kinds of fruits or vegetables, make sure that they are really what you think they are. 

It might save your life.