Some days don’t feel like our life together began with adorable wedding invitations designed to look like books and entitled Marital Bliss.

Some days parenting skills are almost irrelevant because the children have their own agency and make choices for themselves no matter how much I pray and plead and hope.

Today Mary stole toys that weren’t hers again, and hid all her laundry in her drawers, and “lost” her homework (twice) so she wouldn’t have to do it.

Alex threw such a big baby fit, like a real toddler tantrum, that he even threw his mattress off the top bunk onto the floor below.

Kirk ran his little mouth, arguing and back talking about everything in a most uncharacteristic kind of way. 

Barrett punched Alex in the face, which made most of us want to cheer, except that’s not okay.

Anber pinched Kirk, told three big lies in a row, and pointed out (again) to all the other children that Grandma only wants to buy her presents and not them and only wants to sit with her and not anyone else.  She can be so mean!

Nathan and I wanted to lose it.  We were so angry!  And frustrated! And disappointed!

At one point, I just left the battlefield and crawled back under the covers.  I set the timer on my phone for three minutes, had a good cry, then washed my hands and face and went back out there.  No matter how much easier it would have been, I couldn’t just leave them all out there by themselves to duke it out via Hunger Games.

Except I can, because they have their own lives to manage.

I’m the mom, so it’s my job to pass out ice packs and give hugs when  the dust settles, but it is not my job to regulate for them or rescue them from consequences.

Oh, yes, it is time for dinner, except you are hanging up clothes from two days ago.  We will save a plate for you!

Oh, I do see your mattress on the floor.  That’s gonna be a rough night of sleeping, buddy.  It will be just like camping out!  Enjoy!

No, I don’t think I feel like taking a break to have a Dr. Who date with you, because unkind words don’t make for very warm company.

I am sure you would like to go out and play on the swing set since it arrived tonight, except you are on a safety plan that means playing by yourself for now.  You will get a turn tomorrow, while the others are doing a group activity.

Hey, I heard you were good at pinching, so how about taking this bowl of beads for me and clasping them all closed?  Fancy hair braids are for ladies, not bullies.

It’s been a long time since we had an fancy braids at our house!

And it’s true, that natural consequences or those they have chosen for themselves are best.

But we can’t just end there, in a hot mess of trouble and drowning in consequences.

That would be too easy, for us all to just go pout while boiling over with emotions.

Except that’s a spirit that tears families apart.

It’s not of God.

And so while we cannot rescue them from consequences, we can urge them forward, trudging through the mud and mire to the other side of the river.

We can, carefully and peristently, draw them full circle back toward us with that increase in love part that’s supposed to follow discipline.

Do you want to sit in my lap as you cry? You are remembering how your mother stole, too?  You don’t have to give your body away.  You don’t have to steal to stay alive.  You are safe now.  I promise.

Do you want to sing a song with me to chase your mads away?  We all make mistakes, sweet boy, but we must not give up.  Never give up.  And never believe that a mistake means you are unloveable or not worthy.  You are worthy, because of whose you are and who you are and what He has done for you.  Nothing changes that.  Let’s sing our “Try again” song.

Listen, little boy, you got your mouth from your other mama and from me. You better watch it, or al kinds of trouble will fall in your lap.  Trust me.  Ask her.  It’s especially bad, somehow, when you have such a gift for kindness and caring for others.  Don’t betray you.  Protect who you are.  Be wise in your words, not careless.

Just because you got beat all the time doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to do it.  Just because the only thing you remember is the screaming and the hitting doesn’t make trying it out alright.  We promised this was a safe house, a no screaming and no hitting house, but that means everybody does their part – including you.  Your feelings are so big, but that’s because they are.  Name them.  Learn them.  Make friends with them.  Talk them out, draw them out, put it all to words.  But do not use that power to strike against someone else.

You are a warrior.  But a warrior is wise and cautious, not impulsive or cruel.  A wolf takes care of her pack, and keeps them gathered in line instead of scaring and scattering them.  These other children need you, and you need them, siblings long before foster care or adoption.  Your story is made of eternal stuff, so don’t sell it for porridge.

Some days we need a collective intervention of stories or music or distraction in some way to calm everything back down.

Some days Kyrie can’t breathe, and we get a reminder of more important things.

Other days she can breathe, and she’s a brat of a toddler, and we all run for our lives.

But the funny thing is, no matter what we do to chase away the Spirit from our home, nothing coaxes peace back as quickly as legit forgiveness, letting go of grudges and resentment, and the whispering of softly spoken words and cuddles in giant, donated, sofa chairs.

And sometimes a short song from a little girl who just wants to breathe well enough to make a little music.

Enough music to make the children laugh again, to sing again, and then dance again.

(But not on the roof.)

Rooftop Jumpers

Our apologies to the neighbors. 

Alex, who will be the death of me yet, taught Barrett how to climb on the air conditioner to climb on the rain barrels to climb on neighbor’s fence to climb onto our roof. 

When Nathan suggested this was not the safest activity to be teaching his little brother, Alex responding by running away from Nathan to the middle of the back yard, where he stands screaming about how his family hates him and never feeds him. 

This is a new theme lately, as he has apparently and allegedly just realized that the “other parents” we visit occasionally, who bring him candy and play with him on the playground, are the same ones who starved him, who locked him in a van, who started a meth fire, and who didn’t do anything to get him back. 

And he’s angry. 

For the first time, finally, four years later, he’s angry. 

Except taking it out on us, and it’s exhausting.

It’s like that when we first got him, when he cried for three hours and Nathan just rocked him and rocked him, knowing there was nothing we could do to erase that heartache.

The safety issues have to be addressed, obviously, but the screaming and giving up and thinking he is already lost and rejected… it it heartbreaking.  We can hold him, and rock him as if he were tiny, and we can process as nauseum.  But we cannot undo what was already done to him, and we cannot make realizing it easy.

But I promise he got breakfast, and a snack, and lunch, before any of the screaming started.

And we do love him, and we do want him – we just don’t want him on the roof.

It’s so hard, this life these little ones live, and I hate that we can’t rescue them from it.

But we do love them.  Really, we do.

Even when all the love in the world isn’t enough to undo what’s already happened to them.

We will support him best we can, and continue to process with him privately, but in the meantime we also have to keep the children safe – and off the roof.

It’s hard, this parenting thing.

Parenting Class

Well, you obviously know the name of my blog is Housewife Class.

If you didn’t know why, it’s because when I first started going to church with the Mormons, there was a third hour of services after Sacrament meeting and Sunday school – but it was just a women’s class.  I was pretty raw back then, and also Deaf. The name of the class was “Relief Society”, and it was full of ladies learning to be wives and mothers, and that was pretty overwhelming to me.  I never could remember the name of the class in English, and so I called it “Housewife Class” to poke fun but in appreciative way.  I had believed myself to be so smart, but then went to that class and found out how much I still had to learn!

I tell you that story because guess what?!

Today we launched a new website called Parenting Class!   Or, more specifically, ParentingClass.Solutions!  How exciting is that?  Click on that link to check it out!

We have been working on it since August, and still have some cleaning up to do and tons of content to add, but it’s finally laid out enough to let it go live.  I can’t believe it!

Except I do, because I am exhausted!

Nathan took the children to his parents’ house today, and I spent the entire filming six hours worth of 7 minute videos.  That was intense!

We have been preparing for ages, because we knew the one thing we could not do with the kids home was get out the lights or record any audio.  So that sends a million thanks to his parents, who watched the kids today so we could follow a “random” prompting to get the site up and live today – even if more content is still coming.  My eyes are crossed and my muscles cramped and my brain hurts, but we got it done!

Anyway, we did our best and tried hard and it’s pretty snazzy even from the phone.  We have applied for CEU credits for people who finish a certain number of classes, and have also applied for DHS credit for families who have parenting classes listed on their treatment plans but who can’t attend traditional classes for a variety of reasons.  It’s really unfolding!

While I did that, Nathan submitted his musical for production in Philly next month, got confirmation of his opera happening in New York, and sought out dramaturgs for his Christmas play he just finished yesterday.  He also finished designing the ABC book Kyrie and I wrote together last week, and has almost finished editing the next volume of Plain and Precious (our Book of Mormon commentary).  We have been busy!

I even got a new headshot for freebies!

Look at all that grey hair!

I fought for every one of them, and am quite proud, and have absolutely no plans for trying to cover it up.

Besides, it’s way better than my bald chemo head, right?  Except I was pretty proud of that, too (especially the teal wig).  

Anyway, that’s what I learned from Housewife Class, which was actually Relief Society…. that you can work harder than you ever knew was possible for your kids, and it’s best to just be you with all the you that you have got.  That’s what we’re trying to do around here.


Oh my goodness, the Book of Mormon commentary I have spent eight years writing is officially published!

It is coming out as a series of five volumes!

The first volume dropped tonight as an eBook HERE.

If you need help converting the file to work on your Kindle or iBooks or whatever device you are using, there are super simple instructions HERE.

It should be out on Amazon and iTunes in the next week or so, and then paperback and hard copies after that.

It’s so exciting!

Even the Hebrew came out beautifully!

The cover was designed by Nathan, as a pattern (get it?! A PATTERN?!) of gold plates and Liahonas.   Isn’t he so clever?  I love it so much!

It even has a super cool searchable table of contents so you can jump around to wherever you are studying!

I can’t believe it!  It’s really happened!  Eight years!

Here are the acknowledgement pages:

This is crazysauce!  Eight years!  We are so excited!  Thank you for all your support!

Growth Chart

Maybe I should make her have the feeding tube all the time.

Maybe being able to eat all her food and all her snacks and actually get most of it swallowed isn’t enough.

But for us, its miraculous.  Really.

And so when this six year old in the body of a two year old tells me she doesn’t want the feeding tube “because I can get it down”, and tries so hard to eat, then we give her that freedom if she really can swallow some of it.

Sometimes she can’t. 

Sometimes she just tastes her food, and then spits it back out in my hand like a bird.

Then we have to use the feeding tube, whether or not she would prefer not to use it.

Or sometimes she can eat her food, but can’t swallow her drinks without drowning, and then we have to use it (and flush it with water, which is part of using it anyway).

But we have come so far, and we have come so close!

But I’m not worried about her not being on the chart.

Because she is taller.

And growing.

And learning.

And happy.

Except for, you know, the being two part.  But mostly happy.  We are trying.

It’s a fine line, though, and there is always mom guilt.  Maybe she would have hit the chart if I hadn’t stopped the feeding tube.  I’m sure it’s my fault, because I’m the mom, right?

Or maybe it’s not about failing by a few dots.

Maybe it’s about that upward line, and everything counts as progress.

That’s the hope we all need, I think, that instead of doomed to failure because of this or that, we ought to zoom out and see the big picture of progress.

And instead of despairing because of a hard moment, or being overwhelmed by little things, maybe we just need to take a big Kyrie breath and recognize how far we have come – and be content, that it’s enough, for today, and enjoy the lines of life that we have been given between the dots.

Well Children

Mama!  I saw the doctor, and she asked about my poop!  Can you believe that?

That’s what Kyrie said to me when she got home from her two year old well child checkup.

And you said she was your friend, and so I went in there without any boo-boo’s, but I came out with a boo-boo!

We finally got her well child visit completed, and our little sassy pants is finally 22 pounds at 25 months!

That’s just fine if you consider she is still growing, or if you have our palliative care doctor who says just to use the WHO chart for her.  How funny is that?

Her oxygen was 89 at the doctor today.

We have more sleep and swallow studies coming up, oxygen while she sleeps (but we need to buy a new concentrator and I don’t know how to pull that off), oxygen for physical therapy and as needed, and we just continue one day at a time.  Her epiglottis still isn’t right, and she will have to have pflap surgery when she is four… but we are talking about that, about if she is four.

In the meantime, I got up at 3am this morning to work on a new parenting consultant website unrolling soon!  There will be free printables and free videos, plus links to all the books as they come out, plus courses people can take if they want help… as well as starting to do individual coaching and consulting for families.  It’s going to be so fun!  I can add content whenever I am able while the children are sleeping or I am at conferences, record some of the conferences, and just let it grow on its own over time.

We also have the first volume of my Book of Mormon commentary edited, and it should be released as an ebook in the next week or two!

Making Marriage, our book for engaged and newly married couples, is about halfway finished and we can work on it more again now that Nathan finished his opera and two musicals that had summer deadlines.

Mary has settled in, and Anber is doing better than ever.  Kirk is doing great, and Barrett is almost settled.  Alex is still struggling with the transition and acting out with regressive behaviors, but we expected that and are just trying to be consistent and direct with him while we ride his wave of autism anxiety until he knows everything is still okay.

Breathing a little better, all of us, even while we know scary days still come… but we have learned enough not to take any of good days for granted.  They are everything. 

Thanks, doc.

Queen of Katwe

We just wanted to recommend the amazing film Queen of Katwe, which is currently streaming on Netflix!

It’s a wonderful movie with a strong African female character and covers all kinds of fantastic topics like choices and consequences, hard work and endurance, pride and humility, chastity, dating, boundaries, bullies, friendship and social skills, teamwork, parent-child communication, domestic violence, and overcoming the limitations of your background.

It’s based on a true story!

We used it last night for Family Home Evening, and it’s one we will purchase someday to use again and again.   It’s one I want my girls especially to watch over and over, and filled with characters that model traits for them to incorporate.  It’s a story they can watch now, but with layers that will unfold for them as they grow into teenagers rewatching it. 

The story is about a 9 year old Ugandan girl who becomes a Master at chess.

We love chess anyway, but finding a strong brown girl movie about chess was miraculous.  It also has a female director, and the book was written by a female, so that was good for my girls to learn as well.  It was wonderful, and enagaging for all their ages.  We all want our young princesses grow up to Queens, and this is a movie that shows them how way more than cartoon fairytales.

Temple Day

We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  For us, that means our church building we attend every Sunday is called the chapel.  We take Sacrament there, and listen to talks, and sing songs in a very modest and simple service before scampering off to Sunday School.

But we also have holy temples, where we do sacred ordinances to seal families together.  This is where we go to get married, so that there is no “until death do us part”.  It is where we brought the children after they were adopted, so that even when any of us die, we can still be a family.  Even after death, like when my mom was killed, I could do ordinances for her so the ordinances were completed in mortality – though she still gets the choices to accept them in her behalf or not.  But our temples are quiet places of worship, and special places where we come to pray and offer our thanks and give service as well.

Our closest temple is in Oklahoma City.

It was a lovely thing to come today, this beautiful and crisp day after the storms, to thank Heavenly Father for so much protection from the storms of life and so much provision through impossible times.

We have to have a temple recommend to get inside, the way you have to have a driver’s license to drive.  We get this in an interview with our bishop, during which we talk about covenant keeping.  Heavenly Father provided salvation for all of us through what the Savior did for us, and the way we live our lives gives evidence of our accepting that gift.  We don’t earn salvation, but being faithful back to Him is a natural response when He has done so much for us!  We pay our tithing, remain faithful to our spouse, do not use pornography, do not smoke or drink alcohol or use drugs, we serve in our callings (as our church does not have paid clergy, so we all take turns in different roles), and we are asked to be honest and do honest work and be kind to others.

Nathan and I take turns inside, while the other plays with the children.  We have so many fun family traditions, from songs to stories, and from flowers to fountains.  And always the ladybugs!   It is always a special day when we get to come to the temple!

Soon our temple will be closing for about two years for renovations, and during that time we will have to go all the way to Dallas or St. Louis or Kansas City for our temple trips!
But when it re-opens, there will be several weeks that it is completely open to the public!  Anyone can go tour just to see!  Please remember this, and go see while you can!  I will post reminders, of course, because it is so exciting to have opportunity to share.

After the open house, we will have a special meeting where the temple is rededicated as a holy place again, and then we will need our temple recommends – and the daily spiritual preparation that requires – to get inside once more.

Unfolding Mornings

Since we last lived here, my body has aged lifetimes.  Miscarriages and cancer, eighty-seven children, and living in hospitals for two years all ravaged my health in ways I never knew were possible.  Recovery is exhausting.

But now, when my children are old enough to sleep past 5am and functioning enough to start their days without me when they do wake, these days when finally we could rest… my body is too achey and sore and stiff to stay in bed for long.

We do stretches, all of us, to unfold in the mornings.  In a mix of yoga and physical therapy exercises, we move slowly as stretch our bodies as they wake.  From the simplest things to keep my remaining lymph nodes working to untangling Kyrie from oxygen tubing to strengthening Kirk’s muscles so he can even get out of bed, it’s all a bit of a process to get us moving in the mornings.

With it, though, comes so much joy.  There is a happiness settled that many families take for granted because they grow up together instead of piecing their family like a patchwork quilt.  We have gathered our children in, who must learn to trust us the way we must learn to love them, and they must learn to care for each other.  We’ve come a long way, and there are more and more moments that feel as if we have always been.

In a way, we have.

Our faith tradition holds the understanding of existing as children of God before ever being born on Earth, where our spirits have come to get our physical bodies.

Somehow, in some way we can’t quite remember, we all together decided back then we would be a family here, in mortality.

They were such great spirits, these brave little ones, who somehow made covenants and commitments to other families, who would bring them into the world, and to endure all the challenges they have faced because of that, all for opportunity to bring the gospel to those families through sharing, and example, and temple ordinances.  That’s so powerful! They are such big spirits in such little bodies!

Mortality isn’t always so noble, though, as this conversation revealed today:

Alex (age 8): I need to confess I was running around the church building last night, and even got in the primary cubbies, and that was not a God choice.

Me: Thank you for telling me. What do you think that was about?  

Alex: I think I was just very excited to be there for Scouts, and everyone was playing instead of having a little place to be, so I got overstimulated. Maybe since I didn’t have a place to be, I was every place.

Kirk (age 8): Your place to be was in the gym!

Alex, hanging his head in shame, a movement I know his biological father does:  I guess my natural consequence is that I don’t get to go next week.

Me:  That’s all pretty insightful, Alex

Anber (age 4):  Know what else is insightful, Alex?  You smell like a chicken.  So maybe you need a shower.

These children!  

Anber is in a new phase of trying to fix her own hair, if you couldn’t tell.

It’s just that hers is especially pronounced in process!

We are a mess, all of us, and struggling, but we are happy and well and covered in blessings.

When finally all of us are awake, and showered, and dressed, we aren’t ready for our day until everyone has also read scriptures and said their individual morning prayers.  That’s another piece of our faith practice.  It makes our days better, it seems.

We make breakfast together, and do family scripture study and prayers after we have eaten.

Then our school day begin, with Kyrie counting ponies while I get the other children started:

And that is my day by 7am everyday.  

Once everyone is set up for the day, we do a rotation of stations so that by lunch time everyone is finished with their school work, and everyone has practiced piano and typing, and everyone has had an art project, and everyone has had reading with Mama, and everyone has had silent reading time, and  Mary and Alex and Anber and Barrett have practiced violin, and everyone has had some alone time at “recess” (indoors today).  Using our color chart instead of a time schedule gives us the flexibility to work around therapy appointments and play dates.

They take turns by days helping me make lunch, and the others do their chores while they wait.  This way, by lunch time, everyone is ready for special group projects, activities, and free time or naps.  

Nathan works while I do all that, and then takes over in the afternoon when I go to work, giving lessons on language and culture and entrepreneurship and working on their special projects.  I leave dinner in the crockpot or on the stove, or he makes it, and I call to say good night for bedtime prayers.  Nathan tucks them in early, since they are still little (though less so every day), and goes back to work on his computer until I get home.

That’s how we do our days, starting with mornings, six days a week.

And that’s what makes the Sabbath so glorious, Kirk says.

He’s right.

Stormy Fight Club

Today was my every two years re-certification in how to poke your eyeballs out:

Except, you know, de-escalating the conflict before it comes to that, plus all the usual evasive safety maneuvers, just in case.

Now when Kyrie pulls my hair, I can flip her like Jackie Chan and summersault right over her until she is pinned down.

Maybe not exactly.

But it is good stuff, and a small part of what I will be teaching in Houston in a few weeks.

Also, I got to put my boss in a choke hold, which always feels good, right?

The best part of being in training all day is that it meant I got the night off, which was a rare and lovely treat.

Except Nathan was gone to Bartlesville maybe selling our house, so we still needed help because we couldn’t be everywhere at once.

I was very grateful Nathan’s mother went with Mary to the activty days mother-daughter girly event since I couldn’t be there.  I took Mary to buy nail polish today, since obviously we don’t have any in our house.  She saved up her own money and everything!  We negotiated three simple pale pinks appropriate for a eight year old, and of course she came home in bright colors and glitter from everyone else!  Classic!  She had such fun!

In the meantime, the younger three had a date to pick strawberries!  My forever friend Kirsten, who is hard of hearing and lives around the corner, is very excited we are back and my little ones were very excited to meet her little girl (who is not smiling in the picture but is a very happy little girl).

They were also very excited for snow cones, thanks to another friend who gave her her freebie card.  It was just enough to split up for three little tummies!

Unfortunately, it was too much for Kyrie.  She has so recently been weaned off thickener, and most of the time does okay.  Today, though, she aspirated pretty badly and for moments that always feel like time stopped, she could not breathe.  She got through it, but now we have the waiting game to see if she will have pneumonia or not – sometimes we know in as little as six or seven hours.  Nathan will give her a blessing when she gets home.

I was so anxious for the older children to get home because of another tornado night here.  Lightning was coming in fast, and I was watching the weather closely.  They were home late for some reason, and so missed their ride to the end of the year party, but I was glad they were home because of the storm.

But I wanted to keep us all relaxed, though, so I put on some music to cover the thunder a little:

This was extra cozy with my great-grandmother’s lamp welcoming them home:

And then perfected when the children brought home crepes for me from the activity days event!  They put chocolate pudding inside and powered sugar on top.  It was adorable!

I had a treat ready for Nathan’s dad, too, because he brought papers for me, and Barrett’s desk.  We found out our car insurance has still been charging us for the car I gave them after they let us use up their van before we got our own van, the car I had paid off but was scared to drive after mom’s accident!  What a mess! But my friend Brother Funk helped us sort it out, and now with papers from Nathan’s dad showing it has been insured, we will get that corrected and a credit applied to our account.  What a relief!  So I got Nathan’s dad a thank you treat, for his help with that, except we missed him in the storm excitement so it’s still here!  Maybe it will blow to Bartlesville!

Nathan’s mom has her basket here, as the children were delighted to draw her name from the Mother’s Day drawing we held for those who shared our video.  How funny is that?

Then just before I could get anxious about Nathan, he burst through the front door with hands full of milk and bread in the middle of this torrential downpour!  How kind is he?  I am glad he is home, and Nathan’s parents made it home safely, and grateful the children were worn out to fall asleep so fast, and pray protection from the storm – even from our little ducks and rabbits and turtles that live in our yard!