Friday, February 17, 2017

Too many miles

When you & your family live in different states, it can be tough for a number of different reasons. Traveling is expensive & plain old hard to do when you have four kids. When you're older, it doesn't get easier; nothing really does. My mom's recent trips down highlighted this & I had to admit, she is getting older. It's hard for me because she is so far away. I wish I could go and help her do every day tasks & just hang out with her. I want to be closer as she ages so I can care for her because no one loves her like I do.

She's my mom.

Usually, I am okay with the distance. We talk on the phone, through texts and Facebook but this last week, I felt the distance.

I felt the distance between us and it felt like millions of miles, not just a few hundred. I felt fear. I felt panic. I felt a feeling I can't put into words.

A call came into my cell phone just after 5:30 last Thursday night. Phoenix & I were getting ready to head to his first baseball practice of the season at the batting cages. It was my mom. I answered in my usual "Yo. Lady. What is happening?" because I am a jive-ass turkey for the 1970's but more on that later...and I was shocked when a man's voice answered, not my mom's.

It wasn't her husband Tom either. Then I heard the words: "Your mom & my dad have been in an accident. There's no easy way to say it."

It was my brother-in-law Gary, Tom's oldest son. He had just gotten to the hospital where my mom & Tom had been transported by ambulance after surviving a rollover accident on Highway 58 in Oregon. I listened, in shock, as Gary relayed the story to me. Mom had been driving to Mother Bea's house, Tom's mom; Tom had been dozing in the passenger seat when Mom lost control for reasons unknown, crossed into on-coming traffic, hit a guardrail, went over/through it and rolled their Dodge down into a small drainage ditch.

She had sustained non-life threatening injures that included fractured vertebrae and broken ribs. She couldn't remember anything leading up to the accident so I have to assume there is some head trauma too. She was in the ICU and I spoke to her very briefly before hanging up the call.

Then I lost my collective shit.

My mom is all I have left. She isn't perfect. I'm not perfect. We don't always get along or agree but we love each other. We accept each other. We support each other. My mom has always been my rock, has always been the keystone of my life. I would not be who I am today if she had been someone else. And I am not ready to say good-bye or let her go quietly into the night. My legs were jello but all I wanted to do was run. 600 miles isn't that far, is it? I was thinking about how fast I could drive up to her, how many stops would I have to make? I'd sleep in the van; the babies would be okay. I just had to get there.

But I couldn't. For so many reasons. I didn't even know how bad it was or wasn't yet but I felt the panic. The sense of urgency that my mama needed me, that I needed to be with her. I cried, so hard, so long. I was shaking so bad, on the verge of a full-blown panic attack, Jay holding me while I sobbed into his shoulder, when a tiny little hand slipped around my leg and a small body pressed itself against me. It's amazing to me how connected we are to our parents...and I realized Korben could feel my pain the way I was feeling for my mom.

Choking back the sobs, forcing the panic down into its dark little cave, I picked up my boy and held him to me & Jay; I told myself I wouldn't panic until I knew how bad it was. Until someone said "You need to worry.", I wasn't going to allow myself to feel that particular emotion. Instead, I knew needed to focus on Mom and reassuring her. Willing her to heal & just be okay. I couldn't call the hospital, too much anxiety, but my brother called & spoke with her nurses. She had broken ribs, two neck fractures and she was waiting for a neurosurgeon to check her out & decide a course of action e.g a collar & body braces with physical therapy OR surgery. She could move her extremities and there wasn't a worry of paralysis but she was in a lot of pain, of course, and wouldn't be going home any time soon.

Tom, her husband, got released that night with 12 staples in his head and a compression fracture to his sternum. I spoke with him a day or so later but wouldn't get to speak to Mom again for four days, when she was finally checked out and transferred out of the ICU. The neurosurgeon had decided a collar & body brace for 3 months would be enough to let her heal herself. I was relieved surgery wasn't needed and could actually relax. She was in the best possible hands; those belonging to trained nurses & doctors. I've talked to her every day since she was transferred and she sounds more & more like her normal self every day but still has a road to recovery in front of her. She is tired and sore but seems to be in good spirits.

She's started physical therapy at the hospital and will eventually be transferred out to a rehab facility for two weeks before she gets to go home for real. My plan is to go up for a few days when she gets out of rehab to help her out. I've been talking to her regularly now that she is out of ICU and I think it's helping both of us. She sounds more like her usual self every day but the one picture she sent me showed she has a long way to go before she is back to good again. I'll take every baby step to wellness she takes though; happily & gratefully.

Life has almost returned to normal here. Or, as normal as it's ever been, at least. I'm throwing myself into the daily routine wholeheartedly, as a distraction and because we're entering baseball season, a hectic & challenging season with two kids playing and two others too young to be anywhere near interested. I'm beyond thankful that Mom and Tom weren't more seriously hurt.

So, so grateful.

There is so much that could have gone much, much worse. Not knowing how badly she was hurt made for the most anxious days in a long time for me; not being able to talk to her & ask her how she was feeling. It was a very lonely feeling. I am not the best mom when I'm stressed out either and stressed out I was for those first couple days.

Now with the dust settling, I can breathe a bit easier; I know what's going on & what to expect and hopefully, the time for surprises is over. Thank you to everyone who extended thoughts and support this last week. My mom & I both appreciate it greatly.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Finding Our Roots

Last year, my brother Galen wanted some help in finding his birth father so he asked me to submit a DNA sample to Ancestry for analysis. He had already done one and wanted a way to eliminate some of the many, many, matches he had been given. It took me way too long to get my DNA kit sent in & processed but eventually, we had a list of common matches and uncommon matches. It was, and still is, a very long list (we're talking 400+ pages, each with more than forty entries) but narrowing it down by eliminating our shared matches helped immensely.

I don't know if you have ever done research on your family tree but it can get really confusing, really fast and that's when you have solid information to work back from. When you're trying to build a tree without knowing anything about anyone who is in the tree, you're essentially building a puzzle while blindfolded...Luckily, Galen had two matches fairly close to him that weren't shared by me so that's where I started.

Galen had reviewed some the matches he had been given and had reached out to a few of the closest connections but was still having trouble figuring how to put all the information together and how to use it to find his dad. Ancestry's relationship predictor has a habit of calling everyone cousins, even though the degrees of separation could constitute an aunt/uncle relationship; they offer charts with varying degrees of separations to help explain the distance and show possible common ancestors, which helps when you have literally nothing to go one. I started with the two closest connections; a father and a son whom Ancestry predicted to be 2nd & 3rd cousins to Galen. I copied down the tree they belonged to then I checked to see if these two connections shared any other connections with Galen. They did.

That was it. My curiosity was piqued. I dove in head first & wholeheartedly. This was a mystery I was going to solve.

I grabbed a notebook and again started copying down trees, tracing them back until I could find a common ancestor, every common ancestor adding strength to the connection. I wanted to 'practice' my new-found tree building skills some more so I went back to our shared matches and started building a tree of shared matches, gaining confidence in my investigative skills along the way. I contacted a few matches, shared our story and asked questions; I copied down more trees, traced back more shared matches, found more common ancestors, contacted more people; I had my mom submit a DNA test and added all three of our profiles to another DNA analysis site called

Turns out, Galen's father wasn't the only mystery I was going to solve.

My mom, our mom, is also adopted.

Born in 1949, she doesn't have any of the information about her parents that Galen had about her. Her adoption wasn't done through an agency; it was more of a black market baby-buying kind of deal. A nurse at the hospital where my mom was born knew my adopted grandparents, knew they wanted to have a family but couldn't have their our children and she knew my mother was going to be put up for adoption so she tipped my grandparents off to my mom. They hired a lawyer, drew up adoption papers and walked out with my mom. My mom has never requested her original, pre-adoption, birth certificate so her parentage has remained a total mystery.

Until this hunt began...

One thing about DNA: it might be confusing and difficult to understand but IT DOES NOT LIE. If you share DNA with someone, guess what, you are related. So now with shared matches for all three of us & our varying degrees of connection to them, we had a pretty clear picture of who was who, how we were related and a list of 'suspects'. Excluding our connections to each other, the closest connection for each of us, was a cousin; three in total. As it turns out, each cousin belong to a different side of the family: one on each side of my mom's family and one on my brother's father's side. And that father/son connection of Galen's? We determined the father is his great uncle and the son would be his 2nd cousin, which was a prediction Ancestry did give as a possible relationship. I talked with cousins on both of my mom's sides and eventually found my mom's uncle on her mother's side; I exchanged numerous emails, confirmed secret pregnancies and adoptions, revealed the existence of unknown children & siblings and got two more DNA samples submitted (results are still pending!)

Confident I was now on target, I searched and scoured for every bit & scrap of information I could find on the man I believed was Galen's father and took it to him. I told him I wasn't positive but I had a few leads for him if he wanted to pursue them: three names, children of the man I thought could be his father, and a place of death for him, in Texas. He Googled the names & city and found an address that had two of the names plus three more and a couple Facebook profiles so he took a chance and sent out a message with his phone number. There hadn't been any activity on the profile in a while so he wasn't sure he would hear back. When my phone rang later that same day and his number popped up, I answered right away.

"We found him."

He'd gotten a call back, just hours later, from his father's ex wife. She had met his father in Vegas, they'd been together 10 years, married for one, had two kids together. His father had also had another child with a third woman, gotten custody of the girl then taken ill and passed in 2011. The kids are now 23, 21, and 16 years old. The youngest two are daughters, living in Texas; the oldest, a son, is living in Missouri, I think. The youngest daughter was adopted by a family who attends the same church as the half sister & her mother so they are all pretty close, it seems. They were very excited to hear from him and are looking forward to building relationships.

I couldn't believe it. I cried of course. I hadn't realized during this process how much of myself I had put into it but I really put my entire heart and being into this project. I had neglected housework and spent literally days at a time on Ancestry, searching through documents, pouring over trees, filled all the blank pages of two different tablets with family trees and connection charts and started filling in pages of a third. It had become a bit of an obsession and while I knew the whole goal was to find the answer, I was still stunned that we actually had it.

I am sure enough to write this post that I have indeed found my mother's birth parents and my brother's father but I am still waiting on the DNA results from what would be one of my mom's half brother and the uncle on her mother's side, both of which will be definitive and leave absolutely no room for doubt. After completing this adventure, I would highly encourage anyone who is adopted and wanting to find birth families to submit a DNA kit to Ancestry for analysis. It could very well change your life.

A lesson for all of us here is this: talk to your family. Share stories and histories with each other; grandparent to grandchild, parent to child, with your nieces and nephews; get to know one another. Time is a very precious commodity and once the source of vital information, oral histories, is gone, all the information is lost. Both of my grandparents have already passed, as has my brother's father. My mother's uncle, her only remaining connection to her mother, is going to be 82 in March.

 We need these wells of knowledge, these depositories of memories long forgotten, to connect us to the past we share so we don't unknowingly repeat the mistakes of our ancestors.

-- If you or someone you know would like help or information about using Ancestry DNA, finding your family or creating a family tree, please contact me --

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Well, life and emotions got the better of me and I pretty much shut down after my last post but that didn't stop life from happening. It never does. Since that last post a LOT of life has happened: the boys went through an entire year of school (preschool for Paxton and third grade for Phoenix); Korben turned one and then two; Jay and I got married May 1, 2015...

And we got pregnant. Again.

This makes baby #4 and it took us totally by surprise; I was on birth control and we were both happily done having babies. Or so we thought...I blame the honeymoon stage. Back in July, I took the boys up to Oregon to visit my mom & her husband Tom, and to meet his family. Mom & Tom were hosting at a beautiful campsite near Eugene; there was a creek running right behind our site and the boys got to run wild in the woods for five whole days. It was so lush and so green. So green. And it wasn't just a vacation for me; it was a chance to rejuvenate my soul.

I had no idea at the time I had a little stowaway riding along with us but I found out shortly after we got home, just a few weeks before Korben's second birthday. It was the scariest moment of my life in the last eleven years. I had no idea how Jay would react, how he would feel. I had no idea how I felt about it right then. When I told him I had missed my period, he thought I was joking, for a millisecond. It dawned on him I wasn't joking and reality set in. We were going to have another baby. Four kids.

It has been a roller coaster since then. Excitement, anxiety, pure panic, elation, worry, stress, joy. We found out in November the boys will be big brothers to a baby girl. I almost didn't believe it when I saw her on the screen at the ultrasound but it was very obvious to a couple who's seen three boys that this was NOT a baby boy we were seeing and I couldn't help the tears of pure joy. After all the wonders my boys have brought me, I'd get to see what fun a little girl would be. We would get the best, and worst, of both genders.

She is due the day before my birthday, March 26, just eleven weeks from now. As emotional and stressful as this pregnancy has been, its also been the fastest. I'm guessing that chasing three boys on top of regular life has something to do with that but whatever makes it seem to be going so quickly, I'm thankful, because around 20 weeks I developed SPD, a condition that affects pregnant women and occurs when the body starts releasing a hormone called relaxin. This causes the ligaments holding the two pelvic bones together to loosen and relax; it's totally natural and one way your body is prepping for baby's arrival. Without this process, your baby's head wouldn't fit through your pelvis but when it happens this far from delivery, it can cause severe pain and discomfort as the muscles around the loosened ligaments compensate for the work load.

It can also feel like your legs are being pulled off, make your hips pop when you walk up stairs (if you can walk up stairs), give you intense low back pain and make doing normal things like vacuuming, washing dishes or pushing a shopping cart feel like torture. Then there's the normal heartburn, swollen feet & ankles, irritability and my all-time favorites, restless leg syndrome and insomnia. Oh the joys of creating new life... Guaranteed relief only comes after delivery and can take a awhile to come about, thanks to fluctuating hormone levels but this time will definitely be my last (I already signed my tubal ligation consent form) so I won't have to deal with it ever, ever again and its such a short wait before we get to meet our little Murphy girl.

Of course, with so little time before her arrival, I've fallen into nesting mode pretty hard. I've sorted out all the hand-me-downs, kept the gender neutral ones and i will either sell or donate the rest; I've put what I'm keeping away in the dresser she's going to share with Korben and I have plans to add a changing pad on top so it can do double-duty as a changing g station. Since the dresser is already tucked into a little alcove, I want to hang some shelves up for diaper storage and put some curtains on either side to dress it up a bit. Korben will be getting upgraded to the bottom bunk while his toddler bed will go back to crib form for baby sister; Paxton will move up to the top bunk and Phoenix will get a new loft bed that the crib will fit underneath with enough room to get baby in & out easily. I've only got so much space to work with so I'm trying to get the most at of it that I can!

Korben and I have also been potty training because Double Diaper Duty does not float with me and he is doing really well; right now, we are only using diapers at night! He is consistently peeing in the potty, with only a handful of accidents, and we've managed to make a few short trips out and about without diapers or accidents! I'm super proud of the little dude and I'm hoping it sticks after baby sister gets here.

My knitting needles have been getting a workout recently too; there are way too many adorable knitting patterns out there! She isn't even here yet and she already has a collection of knitted sweaters, hats and bootees, some headbands and the cutest little vest. Once I get my hands on a couple skeins of fingering weight, she'll have a couple dresses and a mermaid tail bunting because how could I not knit that?!

It hasn't been all good, though. There's a lot that comes with another baby, we both know, and we are both feeling pretty maxed out as it is. The pressure to get into a house just got more intense and if ever want to travel as a family, we'll need to get a vehicle with more seat belts. I have my heart set on something like a Sequoia or Pilot but I might have to settle for a minivan. Shudder. And then there is all the stuff babies need like diapers and clothes. Those things cost money and we all know that stuff doesn't grow on trees. Even though we haven't bought a single thing yet, we have definitely fought about the cost and just money in general. A lot. And because of the constant pain I feel from the SPD, my usual activities are a million times harder which leads to animosity, resentment and more fighting. Being pregnant, I'm extra sensitive and emotional so the tears are always on the verge of busting out but as I get closer, I feel more excitement than anything and since there's no going backwards I'm enjoying the journey when its good and learning what I can from the bad parts.

Until next time...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Good-bye to another year...of school!

As I begin this post, I realize how many others I have started and never finished in the last few months.

This one will be different...

I really can't believe it's already here. Summer Vacation.

School is out, again, for another summer break. Another grade is completed and this time, it was a year full of good things. Both the boys had amazing years, made friends and met goals. I was thoroughly impressed with progress reports and IEP meetings but never found the time to shout from the hilltops, like I would have not-so-long ago.

I'll start with Phoenix.

At the beginning of the year, we were still about a year behind in some areas, with many of our goals from the previous year still "In Progress". When I met with his teacher for his IEP meeting, a wave of change had rolled through.

We had met goals and were making new ones.
Speech had improved, greatly.
Concepts were sinking in and being understood.
He was finding traction and gaining speed.

It felt good to hear that after such a long struggle, we were finally in a good place. We were finally getting him to where he needs to be for his age. Last week when I got his final progress report, I cried.

Goal after goal read "Met Standards" and while we may still be a year behind in a few places, quite a few of the standards met this year were second grade standards. SECOND GRADE STANDARDS.

It blows my mind how unphased he is, how persistent and determined he is. He gets discouraged, yes. His confidence is still less than I would like. He still struggles a lot in everyday life but we are getting somewhere. For that, I am beyond thankful & grateful.

I am in awe of this little being I have helped to create and mold. He has had so many challenges; even though they seem small, they have had a big impact on him and they still would be if nothing had been done to help him find his way. Karate has helped him blossom more and come out of his shell, almost as if he's becoming more comfortable in his own skin; almost as if he's beginning to learn to love himself.

It's incredible and wonderful and awesome.

Paxton, on the other hand, has never stopped blowing my mind.

I was so worried about him, convinced he was going to have the same problems Phoenix did. I got him evaluated and did speech therapy at Sac State for a semester, went to the school district and got him an IEP, got him into preschool with his IEP. He had pull-out speech services on campus twice a week and I thought about another semester at Sac State, then the baby cried and I was thrusted back to reality with the conclusion that maybe I wasn't capable of doing another semester at Sac State.

At this point, he's already doing better than Phoenix was at the same age and is flying through things that tripped Phoenix up like basic concepts, letter recognition and sounds, so I really don't feel all that guilty. Paxton also doesn't have the inner ear problem Phoenix does, so that has to help too (with my Mom-guilt and his progress in speech).

In just this first year of preschool he's made phenomenal progress and when I say my mind is blown, I'm not exaggerating. At the beginning of this year, he knew a few letters; like the letters to his name. When I went to his parent/teacher meeting in May, his teacher confided that he can identify all 26 letters, upper and lower case, and the sounds they make, that he can spell and, this blew her mind too, that he can read.

Oh yes. He can read.

He still has speech issues, to be clear. He jumbles words together when he's trying to speak in sentences (cluster reduction) or leaves the last sound of words off (final consonant deletion) but these are normal, common processing errors for kids learning to speak and he's not that far behind. Most speech processing errors correct themselves by age 4 and Paxton's fifth birthday is just a few months away so I'm fairly confident these processes will resolve themselves if we just keep doing speech therapy at school and working on speech at home.

It gives me hope that Korben might, possibly, not have any speech issues at all but that's a bridge I'll cross when I come to it. For now, I'm going to take the progress that's been made, the goals that have been met, the leaps and bounds that have been taken and enjoy them for what the are: signs that Jay & I are doing what we need to do for our boys, signs that our boys are healthy and happy and learning and growing and thriving. I'm going to sit back and look at my boys and be proud. Of them, for getting to where they are, and of myself, for helping to get them there.

Seeing them succeed is the greatest proof that I am not a complete and utter failure and that's something I'm clinging to desperately right now.


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