I originally started this blog a few years ago to chronicle Noah's daily struggles with autism. It was a dark time in my life - a time when I felt that things would never get better. It was a time when I felt that all my hopes and dreams for my son and for our family had died. In my efforts to help Noah recover from autism, I began a journey that inadvertently led me to rediscover myself. I learned how to laugh again. How to dream again. How to live again. How to love again.

Autism Schmaustism. He's still our son.

This is a blog celebrating our family. Our kids. Our life.

Monday, June 30, 2008

You Are Loved

Christine blogged today about her favorite songs to sing when she cuddles up with her children who have RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). It made me think of MY favorite song that I listen to when I'm sad, down, or about to go insane from being bit and pinched all day. I also sing it to the kids when they're sad. Well, okay, I'm a terrible singer. I can't hit those high notes. Or those low notes. Or, actually, any notes at all. So, I've downloaded it on the computer and just turn up the volume.

It's Josh Groban's "You Are Loved". I think it is THE most beautiful song ever. Eli introduced me to it. Yes, Eli. He heard it on the radio one day and declared it the BESTEST SONG HE'S EVER IN THE WHOLE WIDE BIG WIDE BIG WORLD HEARD.

His words exactly.

Here it is. Hope you enjoy it, too.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My New Beauty Mark

Time-out is actually working great!! Consistency is definitely the key. We're down to 3-5 minutes at a time. The kids are actually behaving about 75% of the time - which is a lot better than 5%!!. And Eli actually WALKED away from Nandi yesterday when she intentionally started hassling him. That is nothing short of a miracle. Oh! And Nandi is no longer testing us by getting off the couch every 2 seconds. Once she's in time-out, she actually sits still and behaves.

Now.. if only it were that easy to get her INTO time-out...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Deleted Post

Okay, I deleted my recent post about the neighbor's kid. It was really mean of me to even write about it. I need to be a grown-up and either get over it or talk to his parents about it. I'm still weirded out about the whole thing, but don't need to go on here cracking jokes about a kid. That's just mean-spirited - and I don't want to be thought of like that. Sooooo.. for all of you who read the post, I apologize. For those of you who didn't... well, I'm sure your curiousity is piqued... but this case is now closed.

Leslie

She finally hit 25 pounds!

We mailed in Nandini's latest report to our adoption agency yesterday. In the 7 months since she's been home, she's gained 3.8 pounds and grown 3.8 inches. How weird & cool is that?

She now tips the scales at 25.8 pounds. Still a skinny minny, but not too shabby for a child who only lives off shrimp, tomatoes, jelly sandwiches, and turnip greens.

She's also 38.8 inches. That REALLY surprised us. She seems so little. And two of those inches have been in the last month!! Her dresses all hit well above the knee now.

And while we're at it, I decided to weigh the boys. Eli is now 40.8 pounds. I honestly never thought I'd live to see the day when one of my children hit 40 pounds. Truly never thought it was gonna happen. And Noah is 37.8 pounds. Now THAT is something to do a happy dance over. He weighed 24 pounds from the time he was 18 months old until the month before he turned 4. (He was really sick during that time). And now, he's 37.8 pounds. Granted, that's still tiny for a 6 1/2 year old, but considering that he's the heighth of a 4 year old, it's not too bad.

Now, out of curiousity, Sim and I stepped on the scales. I won't even go there... but will say that Sim is now swearing off the Grande Burrito at Braum's.
Tee hee.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Discipline and Attachment

Yesterday, I blogged about some of the issues we've been facing with Nandini, and I thought I would try to explain a little bit more about it.

Someone asked if Nandini has attachment issues. Well, the truth is, we don't know. I guess if you look at everything carefully and gave it a clinical definition, then, yes, she would probably fall on an attachment disorder spectrum. At the same time, though, we do believe she has truly bonded with us.

For those of you who kept up with our adoption journey when we were in India last November, you might recall that Nandini grieved heavily when we took her away from BSSK (her orphanage). Although it was really hard at the time, deep down, I was relieved because it meant that she had formed a bond with her caregivers. And I think one of the greatest fears in adoption is that you'll adopt a child who was so neglected early in life that they aren't able to form attachments.

However, even though Nandini has bonded, she has experienced a lot of losses in her life. The loss of her birthmother. The loss of her caregiver from the first orphanage she was in. The loss of her caregiver from the second orphanage she was in. And then she was moved to a new country, with a new language, and a new caregiver. All of this happened in her first three years. How is she to know that she's not going to move again? Or that we won't abandon her. Because she doesn't understand adoption. We have no idea what she thinks about leaving India - or why she thinks it happened. To a 3 year old, she could very well think it was because she was bad or because they didn't love her anymore. How can she trust that it won't happen again?

Sometimes, I think that's why she tests us so much... to see what we're going to do. Now, some of you may think that there's no way a 3 year old could have that sort of thought process, but we really have no idea what all has happened to her or what she really thinks about it. All we know is that she's gone through 3 significant (that we know of) losses in her short life and that she has every right not to trust us.

The thing is... we know she trusts us, but she guards her heart. She is like a lightswitch - she can turn her emotions on and off like a switch. She can completely shut down if she needs to. In the beginning, if she did something wrong or was told no or got into trouble for hitting, she would shut down - as if to protect herself. You know, it doesn't hurt if you don't let yourself care. Well, now, when she gets in trouble, she lashes out and spits at us or bites us or hits us. That, to us, is actually an improvement.

We look at in stages. The first stage was where she shut down emotionally. She didn't want to get too close to us because she didn't know us. She didn't trust us. She was terribly independent and didn't want our help for ANYTHING. Now, though, she's learned to depend on us - know that we're there and care for her - and she's becoming dependent on us, too. That's the second stage. Now, she's testing us to see how much she can trust us. Will we give her back if she pokes at the dog's eyes? Will we give her away if she throws food all over the place. This is a very trying stage for us. This is where we have to be very consistent with our discipline and be very structured about it. She has to learn right from wrong.

Yesterday, she bit me on the butt. For no reason. She thought it was funny. But I don't care - even if she was playing around. She has to learn that you CAN NOT bite people. So I put her on the couch in time-out. Set out our little visual timer on the coffee table so she could see.... and every time she got off the couch, crawled under the couch, ripped at the couch cushions with her teeth (Sim's prized leather sofa - hmmm... maybe I should put her in time-out on the old couch that we got at a garage sale. Not exactly smart thinking on my part), every time she spit at me or sang ABC's (looonnng story, but she uses the ABC song as a button pusher. Like I said, looooong story, but trust me on this one), she got an extra minute.

She was in time-out for FORTY-TWO MINUTES!! The last 15 I caved in and let her have her blankey because otherwise I thought she'd never get out. The blankey calmed her down and she sat quietly, sucking on it, for the last 15 minutes.

So, you might be wondering... why didn't I just bust her butt and be done with it??? That's what my dad said when I retold the story. Well, because busting the butt of a hurt child who is learning to trust you and who has to be in control is not the best decision. At least not in our case.

Now, I was raised in one of those - pull your pants down, bend over, here's the belt - kind of households. I refuse to do that to my kids. It's humiliating. I don't care how effective it is (and honestly, it was effective for my brother, but not for me. It just ended up pissing me off even more), it is humiliating and stays with you for life. I'm not going do that.

I'm not judging anyone or saying anything about anybody else. But for Nandini - it DOES NOT WORK. I don't care what other people do - I'm not judging anyone - but it is not effective with Nandini.

Here's why. First of all, Nandini likes to be in control. And I'm not a spanker. I am, however, a bit like a volcano and can erupt if something happens over and over again. Nandini, being a control freak, is the type of girl who will refuse to cry. She may experience remorse over something she's done, but if you spank her, she won't cry. She's not going to let you see her cry. She won't let you know that you got to her. Actually, Nandi is the spitting image of me at that age. And, what I've found, from being raised in a family that spanked, you can easily loose your temper with a strong-willed child. And if you spank a child who won't cry and you have a temper and you spank until the child cries, you will end up spanking too hard. And, in my opinion, that's how child abuse starts.

I am not going to do that.

Again, I don't care what any of you choose to do in your house. I promise that I am not judging anyone. But I don't think spanking is an effective method for emotionally hurt children. We have seen that it does not work, so we don't do it.

And let me just talk quickly about "Spare the rod, spoil the child". I am a Christian. I don't hide that. But I think there is a difference between discipline and spanking/hitting. I don't think that Jesus - loving, gentle sweet Jesus who turned the other cheek, who loved all the children - would want me to hit Nandini.

There I said it.

Again, I'm not judging. I promise that. I'm just talking about our special and unique situation. And I don't think "Spare the Rod" applies. If it does, I hope God will understand.

Okay, enought of that..... So, what do we do? I don't know. We're trying to figure it out. The time-out method has been working pretty good. Just letting the kids know that we're not joking around - that we're serious - has made a major impact. Yesterday, Eli hit Nandi and was in time-out for 4 minutes. He thought we were joking and kept getting off the couch. By the time he realized we weren't playing around, he had earned himself an extra 18 minutes in time-out and missed his snack time.

I can guarantee the next time he's in time-out that he won't play around.

Still, though, we'd love to hear from other parents. What do you do if time-out is not appropriate? What if they do something really horrible? Like look you dead in the face, hold your favorite pottery out at arm's length, and let go... leaving it shatter into a million pieces... then stare you down to see what you're going to do?

What do you do then??

P.S. This happened a few months ago before we started our new time-out technique).

Hope to hear from some of you!

ETA: Nandini just came up and pinched Eli, so I put her in time-out for 3 minutes. Guess how long she stayed in time-out???

THREE MINUTES!!!

Who hoo!! It took days and days and lots of melt-downs and crying and tantrums, but I think it's working. We had to go through H-E-double hockey sticks to get there, but I think we "might" be there. Maybe.

Thank you, Sweet Jesus!

Leslie

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Making Progress

Yesterday was actually a good day with Nandini. I only got bit twice, pinched twice, slapped once, and spit on once. I did get hit a few times, but I don't remember how many. It was significantly less than usual, though.

And THAT is called making progress.

All of this happened each time she was told "no".

No, you cannot have gummy fruits for breakfast.

No, you cannot destroy the puzzle that your brother just spent an hour putting together.

No, we do not pinch the dog's ears.


As a friend pointed out, there is a power struggle going on. Nandini wants to be Top Dog. Queen Bee. Ruler of the Roost.

And it ain't gonna happen.

So, that's really where all this comes in. She's not so much a violent child, but more of a child who does violent things to test my reaction. Every time she bites or spits or slaps me, she then looks me dead in the eyes (ah, at least there's eye contact!) and she waits for my reaction.

And I don't react.

At least not anymore. In the beginning, it infuriated me. I'd never had this happen before. I had no idea how to handle it, so the last 7 months have been major trial and error of trying to find out how to handle it. We finally realized that the best reaction with Nandi is no reaction at all.

Now, there are some times when we have to react. Such as when she threw the Bibles and Jesus tracts all over the floor at church on Saturday night. Or when she throws her food on the floor in a public place. But as for the hitting and spitting and biting... we'll, I just remove her teeth from my skin and sit her on the couch for time-out.

Consistency is the key. We've never been good at that, but we're finally realizing how important it is. Right now, she gets angry because we don't react. So, she'll bite harder, as if to say, "Hey lady, I just bit you. Aren't ya gonna do something about it?" or she'll pinch me. And if I don't react, she'll pinch harder until she practically pinches my skin off.

But it is priceless to see the look of confusion on her face when I don't react and just calmly explain that biting (or pinching) is wrong and put her on the couch for time-out.

She gets three minutes in time-out, but then gets an extra minute every time she gets off the couch or crawls under the couch and makes us drag her out or spits at us if we get too close to her or screams and shouts and bites the couch (trying to rip it), etc, etc, etc.

One session yesterday was meant to last 3 minutes and ended up being 17.

Does that give you an idea of what's going on????

We do use a really cool (albeit expensive) visual timer that we found out about in Austin. They use it with kids who have autism so that they can visually understand when the therapy sessions are up.



And at one point yesterday I heard the timer go off early. Turns out, when my back was turned, Nandini ran up to it, moved it to where there was one minute left, and then ran back and jumped on the the couch. Sigh.

We have a looooooooooong road ahead of us.

The other day, I finally brokedown and wrote about our struggles to the International Hemi-Kids list. (Nandini's brain injury caused her to have a type of cerebral palsy called Hemiplegia). Anyway, many of the parents who have children with injuries to the temporal and parietal lobes answered back and wrote that Nandi is a mini-version of their children.

Oh.My.Word.

But, at the same time, I know without a doubt that 75 - 80% of it is her testing us -because she was good as gold when my mom watched her last week while I was in Austin. And my mom said it literally changed the second Simeon would walk through the door after work.

I hope this doesn't make it sound like we're living a horrible existence and regret the decisions we've made. Not at all!! But we are having some difficulties in the behavior department. Also, since Eli is only four and doesn't have a lot of self-control skills, he reacts to Nandi's button-pushing each and every time. And it just fuels the fire.

We have a lot to work out, but if we can be consistent and firm, yet loving, and just provide her with structure (which is hard for me) and guidance (which is a bit hard - especially when we ourselves need a lot of guidance), then I think we can get through this.

At the same time, she has such a strong-will - which is great thing to have, but is also very difficult for the parents. What's a mom to do?

Any suggestions?

Leslie

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What's New With Us

Well, actually nothing is new with us. I just didn't know how to title this post. I guess I could have just put in "Our Family Update". But I didn't.

So, I hope I didn't get anyone too excited - thinking that we had something wonderful to share. Nope. Sorry. We didn't win the lottery. I'm not preggers. Nandini and Eli still hate each other. There's really nothing to tell.

Well, unless you consider Noah pooping once a day exciting. 'Cause we had a serious issue for a while.

We're all quite excited about it. All my kids are now proud members of the Once a Day club.

I'm thinking about getting a bumper sticker. What do you think?

Let's see. What else?

Okay, so I went to Austin this past week. 5 days on my own. It.Was.Fantastic. I really, truly needed it. I feel absolutely refreshed and rejuvenated. I got zero sleep though. The hotel had cable. And I ended up doing all-nighters watching John & Kate Plus 8. You know the show I'm talking about?

Totally sucked me in. I was hooked. I am so glad we don't have TV at home. I honestly don't know how I accomplished anything over the last 34 years.

Hmmm.. what else? The conference was amazing. I am so excited about it. I know I should be on here doing big update about it, but my mind is still overwhelmed over everything I saw. I mean, seriously, I saw videos of adults who'd spent their lives in state institutions responding to RPM. It's just wild. I came home and did my first session with Noah this morning. We learned about goldfish, and he actually spelled out "gold", "fish", "plants", "tank", "pets", and "shade" on the stencils. Honestly, it just blows me away.

All of us parents had to submit tapes of our children and there were 17 year old's with autism - who many, many people would classify as mentally retarded - spelling out sentences and having conversations on the letterboard. One kid had a whole conversation about how much he enjoyed the "Rolling Stones" Movie at the IMAX. There was one boy who is completely nonverbal who has made a ton of money on the stock market. And his mom reads all the money magazines and websites and all that stock stuff (yeah, I have no idea what any of it is. I hope Noah doesn't develop an interest in that. Bargain Hunting, Noah! That's what you need to like!) Anyway, his mom reads it and asks him questions about the stocks and he tells her what to do via RPM. He's made a lot of money doing this. And he's only 13! And he's nonverbal and what others would term severely autistic. These are kids who are placed in LifeSkills classes at their local schools. Even Soma's son (Soma runs HALO)is in LifeSkills - and he's published 3 books!.

It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Seriously, I have no doubt, now, that Noah will eventually be able get his GED. No doubt at all. The key is in knowing how to identify the child's open learning channel at the exact time that you're wanting the learning to take place. It just kills me to think of all the children and teenagers and adults out there who will never have a chance because people didn't know about this.

Anyway, there's a great article about a kid in Austin who shocked everyone when they found out he could communicate via RPM. He went from Special Ed to winning 4th place in the State of Texas Chemistry competition. You can find it here. . There's also a blog about Mike in his own words about what it's like to be autistic.

The only down side is that I have to spend probably 1-2 hours a night now doing lesson plans for Noah. Apparently, I was doing it all wrong before, which is why I wasn't getting the same results that he got at HALO with Soma and Erika. I'm sure it'll get easier the more I do it, but for now it's going to give me a serious butt kicking. I'm not sure how much I'll be able to blog over the next month or so.

Of course, whenever I say that, I end up on a blogging frenzy. So, we'll see.

So, that's it with us. Nothing too terribly exciting - but a lot of exciting possibilities. Sorry for the randomness and scattered thoughts. My brain just isn't working very well right now - I'm a bit discombobulated.

Actually, I just wanted to use the word "discombobulated" in a sentence. :-)

That's your SAT word of the day.

Anyway, I need to start figuring out what to fix for supper.. which, most likely will involve me standing in front of the refrigerator with the freezer door wide open for about 10 minutes before I slam it shut and and decide to drive through Pop's Chicken for some catfish.

Yes, they serve catfish at the chicken place.

Best of both worlds.

Leslie

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

I have to be honest. I have the BEST husband in the world. And one of the best things about him is that he is a FANTASTIC father. I cannot imagine wanting anyone else to be the father of my children. God truly has blessed me with Simeon.

I asked everyone what they love about their Daddy and this is what they said:

Noah: (He smiled really big)

Nandini: Play, Daddy. Play!!!

Eli: I like it when Daddy fix my shark and we go on the boat. He's my best friend of all and loves dinosaurs. I love it when Daddy lets me out of time out when Mommy puts me in because I got in big trouble. That's all. I have nothing else to say.

Mommy: I love your Daddy because he is super duper and loads of fun. I'm the luckiest girl in the world. He puts up with my moods and gives the absolute best foot rubs in the world. Also, he's letting me go to Austin for five days all by myself so that I can get special training on how to work with Noah. Speaking of which, I have to leave in an hour!!! Gotta go!!!

Happy Father's Day! I love you, Sim!


















Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Night in a Small Town

We just came back from our local carnival. You know, one of those travelling carnival things that sets up in abandoned shopping center parking lots. The ones that are sometimes in the news because a kid fell out of a faulty ferris wheel or because it turns out that one of the ride attendants is a sex offender.

Yeah, one of those.

We just got back from one of those.

I think Simeon is ready to move.

You see, Sim works in Irving. He travels an hour and a half to get to work every day. That’s an hour and a half closer to normal. He doesn’t really get to see all the colorful characters that live in this little town.

Now, I like colorful. Colorful is good. It would be boring if everyone was the same. But having all the colorful characters converge into one place…. Well, it’s a tad bit overwhelming.

If any of our Sheffield friends are reading this, Sim says that it reminds him of Barnsley.

Ouch.

So, anyway, Sim had a scowl on his face the moment we went in there. It looked like this….




And it didn’t leave the entire time. Not until he got home and scrubbed his hands clean with antibiotic soap.

It’s kind of funny, actually. Because Sim is incredibly laid back. Like, nothing ruffles his feathers. But if you take him to a flea market ---- or a travelling carnival – he turns into a grouchy old fart.

I also think the fact that it cost $23.50 for the kids to ride a merry-go-round and go down a giant slide also had something to do with it. He refused to pay $20 more for the kids to have unlimited rides. Not so much because of the money, but because it would mean that he’d have to spend more time at the carnival.. amongst chain smoking men wearing jams and mullets.

I.Am.Not.Kidding.

Actual 1980’s jams.

I didn’t think any of those actually survived this long. It's possible that if we collected all the jams worn in this town, we could actually open up a Jam Museum. Nostalgia Nerds from all over the country would flock to our county.

I think I should bring it up to City Hall.

And lest you think we’re leaving the women out…well, let’s just say that I’ve never seen so much tattooed cleavage in one place.

And I am all for the tattoo. Honestly, I’ve been begging Sim to get arm sleeves for years, but he says tattoos are not meant for pale, skinny, British men.

Excuses, excuses.

Anyway, so despite my love for the tattoo, all I can say after tonight is that I am so thankful that my family held the Save Leslie’s Skin intervention of 1991 that prevented me from getting a daisy chain tattooed around my belly button and a tribal band around my ankle.

Because after tonight, I now know what stretch marks do to stomach tattoos. And, uh, tribal bands might have looked alright when you had ankles… but when they turn into cankles, it’s a whole nother story.

So, dear family, although I might have hated you for the embarrassing – and, totally unnecessary family meeting you called when I was 18… boy, oh boy, did you save my bacon!

(But, Sim, seriously. Just one tattoo? Please? Pretty Please?)

Oops. Okay, where was I?

So, uh, yeah. It was interesting. As for the kids, they loved it. Kids are kids. They don’t care. They just want you to shell out tons of money so they can win a blow-up shark that’ll pop and bust an hour later. They don’t care that they end up smelling like cigarette smoke.

And while I’m on the subject… how can you spend an hour outside in fresh air and still wind up smelling of smoke? It’s kind of alarming when you lean in to kiss your 3 year olds hair and you notice she smells like a mixture of cotton candy and cheap cigarettes.

Not good.

And you know what we also found out? Kids don’t care that the clown statue is actually not a clown statue but a TRASH CAN that is decorated to look like a clown statue. But do they give a hill of beans? Nope. They’ll still run right up to that clown and give it a big ‘ol smackaroo right on the dirty, trashy lips.

Bet you a funnel cake that you know whose kid did that.

And that was our Friday night. $1.00 in gas. $23.50 in tickets. ½ a $5.00 bottle of Germ-X. 3 hair washings of Baby Avalon Organics Shampoo – for each kid. And the PRICELESS experience of watching my husband turn into his father before my very eyes.

Wow. What a Friday night.

CAN’T WAIT to take the kids to Hurricane Harbor. Sim will have a field day with that one.









Sunday, June 08, 2008

Wuv, Twue Wuv......

If you don't understand the title of of this post, then I feel like a fool. Go run to the nearest Blockbuster ASAP and rent The Princess Bride - because you're missing out on an important piece of pop culture.

Actually, Sim and I are sitting here at 9:00 in this Sunday morning, drinking our coffee, and watching The Princess Bride in honor of our 12th wedding anniversary.

Obviously, the tie that binds us together is the fact that we are both huge dorks.

12 years. Can you believe it!! I'm sure almost all you thought it would never last. And it so easily could've just been a fleeting college romance. I mean, we met while I was doing a semester exchange in England. But it turned into Wuv, twue wuv and I ended up staying in Sheffield and then Sim moved to Texas and the rest is marriage history.

TWELVE YEARS!!!

That's, like, 84 in dog years.

That, my friend, is a looooooooooong time.

But what other way to go through life with your twue wuv, huh? I wouldn't want it any other way.

Sorry I don't have any pictures to post. Fortunately -er, I mean, unfortunately - our scanner is broke so you can't see our absolutely horrible wedding pictures. Our wedding was a bit of a mismatch. I won't even go into the fact that our unity candle was sitting underneath an air vent and melted all over my wedding dress - so most of our pictures are of me, Sim, and the flower girl ( who is standing in front of me to hide the stain). Or that the ring wouldn't go on. Or that the preacher took out the word "obey", like I specifically asked - but then put in a whole speech about me getting up in the morning and fixing my husband breakfast. Or that I got ticked off and stood there fuming at him - the preacher, not Sim - during the ceremony. Or that the ring wouldn't go on. Or that our video looks like it was taken by someone who was riding a roller coaster at Six Flags, when actually it was taken by my Grandad who cried through the whole thing, thus making the camera shake with every breath. Or that my hair was done at a place called Hillbilly Bob's - and looked like it. Or that the bridesmaids stood around me and sang "Son of Preacher Man" at the reception.... which insulted my father-in-law, who stood up and shouted, "I'm A VICAR!!!!"

It was something else.

It shouldn't have lasted.

I'm sure people placed bets.

Sorry you all lost. Nana Nana Boo Boo!!

This one's a keeper!!

12's years, Baby! Here's to 12 more! And 12 more after that. And 12 more after that!

So, in lieu of pictures, I'm leaving you with a clip of Wuv, twue wuv...... and also a bit from the BEST wedding ever.. Alice and Hugo's from The Vicar of Dibley. YouTube only had a part of it... but it'll still crack you up.



Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Being Fabulous

Guess what I got to do last Saturday night?

Go out with the Girls!!! Dinner and a movie. In the Big D.

That would be Dallas to all you non-Texans.

It was a pretty interesting experience. I had a great time, but the best part was that I learned a very important life lesson.

You see, I unnecessarily got all worked up over the fact that I had nothing to wear, my hair had too much gray, I’d eaten too much fast food that week, and that I’d have nothing to say with this group of friends – who, by the way, are all young, rich, and single.

All right. So they are all my ex-students from when I worked at TWU, and they LOVE me. Not enough to share any of that young, rich, and single money that they’ve been earning. But enough to ask me to come out for the last three years – and, which, I’ve said no to each time. But this time, they said they’d pay. And how on earth could I say no to that?

But here’s the problem. Have any of you seen me lately? I’m not exactly the picture of hotness. I’ve got Albert Einstein sprouting from my scalp. How the heck can a grown woman with dead straight hair suddenly get wiry grays sprouting out of her head? That just doesn’t make sense. And the last time I saw this group of, girls, I was Pre-Mom. Meaning, I had no wrinkles, no circles under my eyes, fit into a size 4, and was in my 20’s.

Now, despite what you’ve just read, I have to say that I’m not materialistic at all. In fact, if you want the awful truth, I am typing this while wearing the same outfit I’ve had on for the last 6 days (minus, Saturday night, of course).

And I’ve slept in it the last 2 days. And tonight will probably make a 3rd.

But don’t worry. I’ve changed my underwear each day.

I’m not gross, you know.

But the point is… somehow I let the thought of spending an evening with The Young & The Fabulous turn my tiny insecurities into a mountainous monster of materialism.

How’s that for some alliteration?

So, I did something I thought I’d never do. I took off my beloved Birkenstocks, whispered, “I’m sorry”, and placed them on the shelf. Then, I dug through a box of my old work shoes to see if I had any heels that wouldn’t look ridiculous with my jeans. And then I tried to find a shirt. But seeing that my shirts are the kind that have the dinners of three children on them, I knew I had to take desperate action.

So what’s a woman in a small East Texas town to do? Why, head to Bealls, of course!

You know you live in a small town when the only shopping option within 70 miles is Bealls.

Or Cato.

After the shopping, I decided to tackle Albert Einstein, so I found a bottle of hair dye underneath the bathroom sink and slathered the toxic concoction all over my head.

And in my rush, I forget the gloves. Guess who ended up with purple fingernails?

And I forgot to add in the fragrance packet. So, you can imagine how lovely and chemically I smelled afterwards.

But the best part was that I headed straight to the computer while waiting out my 25 minutes and failed to notice a tiny glob of hair dye that had fallen on my nose – or the larger glob that took up residence on my right temple.

You can imagine the end result, can’t you? Yes. Not only did I have a giant stain on my forehead, but my nose ended up looking like Rudolph’s Misfit Cousin.

I googled what to do and seeing that I didn’t have any cigarette ash (???), I found some nail polish remover and started rubbing.

It didn’t work.

Of course, since I found it in a box that contained an old prom photo and a movie stub from Pretty Woman, I guess it’s fair to say that the stuff expired about, oh, 18 years ago.

The first thing Sim said to me when he got off work was, “Uh, what’s Spain doing on your forehead?”

Thanks, babe. You’re a dear.

And since I was smelling so toxic anyway, I decided to slather on some of that super stinky Jergen’s lotion that doubles up as a tanning lotion. The whole time, I’m thinking about what will happen if someone strikes a match near me. But then I reassure myself with the fact that, most likely, no one is going to get near my toxic self anyway. I mean, I was even making myself nauseous.

So, I wait the required 5 minutes, get dressed, and head on out. I pull down my driver mirror at a stop sign and immediately say a quick prayer that we won’t be eating out on the restaurant patio in the bright sunlight.

I don’t need The Young & The Fabulous to see the moustache that popped up on my 30th birthday.

Because nothing says Uber Sophisticated Mother of Three like a hair dye stain in the shape of a European country, fake orange skin, and a moustache.

I am one hot momma, let me tell you.

But, fortunately, for me, we went to the movie first and then to dinner. And no one noticed my hair dye stain – thanks to my freshly cut bangs – or my purple fingernails, or the new shirt, or any of the stuff I was worried about.

In fact. NO ONE CARED. Because they all had their own problems.

I had foolishly thought that I couldn’t be myself. That I had to look great and wonderful in order to fit in with The Young & The Fabulous.

But you know what? I listened to them talk. And their life isn’t as fabulous as it seems. In fact, they’re going through all the same stuff I went through years ago.. back when I was Young & Fabulous. And even though the grass sometimes seems greener.. .after hearing them go on about their problems… man, you couldn’t pay me to go back to that time in my life.

Because I realized that I AM FABULOUS just the way I am. I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted. A FABULOUS (and darn good looking!) husband. FABULOUS kids. FABULOUS health. FABULOUS friends & family.

I.AM.FABULOUS.

Even if I do have a moustache.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In Memory of Marcail

Four years ago, my friend Tammy lost her little girl, Marcail. It was very sudden and unexpected - and I will never, ever forget receiving the call from her husband, John.

Marcail was a beautiful little girl. She was adopted from Kolkata, India - from the same orphanage that Noah was from, and she had been home for just six short months. That's the same time that Nandini's been home, and I can't even imagine losing her. It's unthinkable.

Tammy was so incredibly in love with Marcail. I've never seen a happier family....

On Saturday, Tammy sent out this letter in memory of Marcail and it included a really beautiful and sweet slideshow. With her permission, she's letting me post it here...



Today marks 4 years that we lost our angel. I wanted to do something special for her and have worked on this for sometime for today.

http://www.slide.com/r/n092rM4m5j-xxvjV4LCZOHYm1Yc13pdp?previous_view=mscd_embedded_url&view=original

Marcail is the most beautiful child I have ever held in my arms. There was something special about her that when you held her you knew you were given a gift. Her eyes seen your soul and her smile melted your heart. She brought a peacefulness when in her presence and brightness to any room she entered.

When I took her shopping, I would have to allow extra time as strangers would come up to see her. She never seemed afraid of them and always let them touch her hand or cheek. When they turned to go, they left with a smile on their face.

Her head was the perfect size to fit into my shoulder and would let you hold her for hours. Every evening she would sit beside her Daddy while he read the paper patiently waiting. She had a habit of peeking around the corner before entering a room, especially if she had one of her brother's toys. On the back of her headstone, we have an angel looking over the edge of a cloud dropping 4 hearts down to earth.

Marcail LOVED her fingernail and toenails painted and loved having lip gloss put on. But one of the favorite things she enjoyed most was watching Finding Nemo. She would watch the entire movie everyday.

Zackery was 10.5 months older than Marcail and his side-kick. They loved each other more than words can ever describe. They would have graduated from kindergarten together this year. When Zackery walked across the stage Thursday night to receive his kindergarten diploma he had a picture of Marcail in his pocket. We know she was smiling down from heaven watching him proudly wear his cap and tassel.

In closing I'm writing the engraving from the back of her headstone:

A million times we have cried
If love alone would have saved you
You would have never died
In life we loved you dearly
In death we love you still
In our hearts you hold a special place
That none will ever fill
It broke our hearts to loose you
But you did not go alone
For all our love went with you
The day God called you home.

We know we were blessed to have Marcail in our lives for the short 6 months and 10 days, and went to heaven having a forever family. Tammy