Monthly Archives: June 2008

Food For Thought



“Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort.”
Norman Kolpas

Food is the most primitive form of comfort.”
Sheilah Graham

Today I drove Ethan down to visit his mom.  Intially I felt ackward because this is the first time that we have been to visit since receiving the letter full of accusations and paranoia that she sent to me.  But I prayed while waiting for her to come out and as time edged on, the ackwardness sidled away.

She is usually late to arrive, but it took her a full hour to come out today.  I was a tad annoyed because this adds time to the entire visiting process.  We got in the visiting area at 9:30am and she came out at 10:35am.  I have no clue as to what takes her so long.  Most inmates come right out. 

She was her usual pleasant self, making sure to include me in their conversations.  She even waved to me through the window as they processed her.  Wary, I only spoke when addressed in order to allow mother and child time together.

However, there was one thing  different about this visit.  I did not bring the usual $10 that I normally do so that we may get things from the vending machine.   I rarely eat though because most of the things in the machines don’t appeal to my taste buds so early in the morning.  It is a two-hour drive to get there so I know that Ethan is probably a little hungry by then.  Out of courtesy I always offer Eliza something as well.

The first time that we visited her last November, she looked totally shocked when I asked her if she wanted a refreshment.  She halfheartedly declined.  Later in the visit I offered her again insisting that she  at least get a drink.  She happily obliged.

Since that first time she hasn’t refused a snack.  I really don’t mind treating her but my husband has a different opinion.  He feels that I already spend enough on gas (usually $60 roundtrip) and taking the kids to lunch afterwards.  He has also stated that she probably doesn’t appreciate it and comes to expect it.  He also feels that this gives her an attitude of superiority because she has me (a former enemy) buying things for her.  He thinks, too, that Ethan should use some of his allowance to buy snacks for them.

I reminded him that she has never asked me to buy her anything because I am the one offering.  Two, for me it would be quite humbling to accept something from a person I once viewed as the enemy.  I am not getting the impression that she is being smug about it.  Finally, I don’t really care if she does feel triumphant that I am spending a small amount of money on her.  If she is indeed “using” me, the shame is on her and not me.  It is not like I am spending a fortune on her.  Besides, food helps break the ice time and again.

Plus, I bear witness to the healing power of food.  Food comforts, strengthens, and uplifts us (just visualize “The Last Supper”).  That’s why there are such terms as “comfort food” and “homestyle cooking.”   It has probably turned some foes into friends–just the act of sharing alone.  Food is MEANT to be shared with people.    Food is also an important part of our lives.  And don’t forget that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  How bitter/uneasy/depressed can you be for long when you and others are stuffing your faces with goodies?  Food allows the good times to roll.  Not to mention it feels odd not to be snacking when everyone around us is doing so. I feel good that I am able to offer something at all.  Of course, my husband felt that I was being far too philosophical about the matter.

 I can even understand why my husband would have a hard time breaking bread with Eliza.  Sometimes I do get very angry with the kind of person she is.  I even think of ways that I can hurt/best her in the fragile position that she is in.  She seems to have no problem inflicting pain.  Every chance she gets she uses it to slap us in the face and rain on our parade when we least expect or deserve it.   But somehow I know that it is not safe to fight fire with fire.  When she offends me, I can’t try to offend her in return.  I am of sound mind.  And if she suffers from the mental issues that I think she does, then she can’t help herself without treatment.   I have no excuses.  

While I do respect and empathize with my husband’s opinion, I am the one who will make the ultimate choice about how I conduct myself with her.   If I have the money to spare, I will continue  to graciously provide the funds for snacking.  I understand that she will never likely return the favor which is fine by me.  But that’s not why I do it.

The Bible is a feast of words and I must say that Romans 12:19-21 is quite a delicious sampling of the banquet we have coming:  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”



The Wastelands


Kids are not what they used to be.  This can be attributed in part to the boom of technology.  When you factor in numerous complex gaming systems, cell phones and text messaging, IM, MySpace, Face Book, chat rooms, Second Life, and IPods just to name a few, how could they?


When I was growing up we didn’t have anything competing for our attention other than the Nintendo.  However, I rarely played considering that we did not have one.  And it didn’t bother me.  I’d have much rather have been playing outside with the kids from the neighborhood enjoying the numerous games we created or reading a book.  The Nintendo just didn’t hold my attention or affection for very long.


I am not against owning a game system because we do in fact have a Play Station II.  From time to time (maybe twice a year if that) I will sit with them a play for thirty minutes or so.  However, I am totally against them playing for hours at a time.  Used to my style of authoritative parenting, Nicholas has no problem with this.  He is a diverse child with various interests and is comfortable doing many things.  My stepsons on the other hand…


Ethan is simply consumed by the Play Station.  That’s all he wants to do.  If you don’t allow him to play for hours at a time, then he is instantly bored.  He has two things that he really enjoys doing.  Watching television is second and I’m sure you can guess the first.  It’s almost like he is in a trance when playing.  I believe it is his attempt to not deal with reality.  When immersed in the game he doesn’t recall that his mom is serving time in prison for murder.  He doesn’t think about his new living arrangements or the new rules that he must abide by.


I have tried to provide other things for him to do in lieu of playing the PSII but most of the time he is just not interested.  He really doesn’t give anything a chance.  Or if he does do something else for a while, immediately afterwards he is ready to jump back on the game.  Even when it is someone else’s turn to play, sits there and watches and offers commentary.  Really, it’s very disturbing to my senses! 


My husband pretty much shares my sentiment but I have to say that he is more relaxed about it.  He tends to give in when he sees Ethan sitting around tweedling his thumbs because he has nothing to do.  During these times I have to remind my husband that he CHOOSES not to do anything.  I also point out the many other things that he could be doing.  Then I inform my husband that he if his passion is games, that we have over twenty board games in the family room closet.  Faced with this logic, my husband usually concurs.  Necessity is said to be the mother of invention and if this is true, Boredom must be its father.


At Eliza’s house they were allowed to play with unbridled abandon.  There were no rules surrounding the game and had 24-hour access to it.  They had a choice of playing any kind of games, even the ones rated M for Mature (blood, gore, and excessive violence).  My husband even confirmed this.  Not to mention, Ethan has told me many times that they could play “at home” whenever and how ever long they wanted.  He incorrectly assumed that if it was okay with Eliza, then it should be okay with us.


When Eliza initially went to prison to entice them to visit her, she would tell them that they had a Play Station II in the visiting area.  This instantly intrigued them.  Most of the conversations she had with them pertained to some aspect of electronic games.  She asked them if they had got to play the system that particular day, what new games they wanted, and how she was going to get them the latest game system when she came home.  That was the topic for 95% of their conversations with her.


When I explained to her that we were trying to get them to develop interests outside of this venue, she immediately got defensive.  She claimed that she did not encourage them to play the PSII and actually did not allow them to play on school nights.  I remained silent because I knew that she was not telling the truth.  I knew that she used the PSII as a babysitter when she was too busy doing other things. 


I have to admit that it does take a lot of energy, time, and creativity to keep him away from the flame.  And sometimes it is easier just to give in.  But I won’t and am willing to risk being the bad guy to do so.  I just refuse to let him or Evan spend their fleeting youth dwelling in the wastelands.


I can say that Evan isn’t AS obsessed with the playing part.  Sometimes he is content to sit and watch Ethan play.  I think this stems from that fact that being the youngest he often had to wait to play at the mercy of his older brothers.  They hogged the game and rarely allowed him to do so.


I allow the kids to play on the system for one hour a day, every other day.  That is reasonable to me.  I wouldn’t allow them to do any one thing ALL day long, so I don’t see why the PSII should be the exception.


Cheap Summer Thrills


Here are a few ideas that won’t break the budget.  The price of gas has already managed to do that for our household!

  • Swimming at a public pool is really cheap, but better yet, if you know someone who has a pool or a pool in their community, you can go for free as their guests.
  • Summer reading programs at your local library
  • A cheap and attractive way to decorate your yard is with “designer stones.”  Buy as many small stones as necessary and many different colors of paint and various brush sizes.  Allow the kids to decorate their rocks and place in the yard.  We just finished designing 15 more small stones to use as a border  for the front of our yard.  My husband even participated in this one.
  • Local musuems are a treasure.  Most of them offer at least one free night per month.  Not to mention that they have all types of them–everything from the state police museum to a Batman musuem in our city.
  • Visit the zoo and take a picnic lunch
  • Feed the ducks at a local lake, pond, river
  • Places such as The Home Depot and Lowe’s often offer monthly craft corners for children free of charge
  • Craft stores such as Michael’s and Hobby Lobby offer crafts for reasonable prices
  • Local parks…need I say more?  Another way to perk up this mundane trip is to take a camera and strike a pose.  I love candid shots, plus the greenery is so lush in the summertime.  Also be sure to take a variety of balls (basketball, soccer, baseball) for more fun.
  • Make use of your city’s downtown.  They usually have neat stores to browse and window shop
  • Play board games and make a popcorn that you have never tried before such as marshmallow or salt and cracked pepper along with lemonade or sweet tea.
  • Catch bugs
  • Create a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood
  • Biking
  • Have the kids go through their possessions in search of things they don’t want and have a yard sale.  Do something fun with the proceeds.
  • Matinees.  Here in our city we have a reduced price theatre that shows movies for .50 cents on Tuesdays.  On other days the price is a mere $1.50 and the movies are pretty current.
  • Drive-in theatres
  • Have the kids create a play and perform it in the back yard for family and friends.
  • Have a family car wash day. Allow the kids to suit up and help wash the family vehicles.
  • Take advantage of restaurants where kids eat free
  • Enjoy plays put on by children theatre groups–they are often reasonably priced
  • Children, ethnic, and cultural festivals.  We recently had a blast at the American Indian Festival.  We had buffalo burgers and Indian tacos.
  • The State Fair–is there anything like “fair food”?  I can’t wait to try a deep-fried latte!
  • Have/help the kids prepare a simple summer dessert.  They will be so proud of themselves!
  • Speaking of dessert, eat dinner at home and take the kids out for dessert at a restaurant.  Our kids love when we do this.
  • If you have voice recording functions on your computer, encourage the kids to make CD’s of any kind, comedy, drama, songs, poems…
  • Take the kids to pick their own berries at a strawberry patch
  • Write poetry
  • Enter contests (coloring, drawing, writing, photographs–any kind), because you can’t win if you don’t enter)
  • Odd as it sounds, allow your older children to help you shred documents.  Nicholas loves to do this.
  • Make pickles, butter, or ice-cream
  • Take them on a shopping spree at a thrift store looking for treasures (one man’s trash is another man’s treasure)
  • Create a family crest ( a good idea for stepfamilies and can even combine last names to make one that includes everyone–silly is good i.e. “The McGarvalaniskis’)
  • Design t-shirts with fabric paint and/or paint markers
  • Create an end of the summer photo essays using pictures to detail all the fun they had
  • Make a scrapbook in which everyone creates a layout
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Write letters/post cards to relatives and friends, even if they live stateside.  Everyone enjoys a pleasant surprise in the mail from time to time
  • Visit a local nursing home and adopt a friend or read stories to them
  • Tour the sports arenas in your area.
  • Form a family band and perform
  • Go fishing
  • Fly a kite
  • Create magnets for the fridge
  • Teens can use the summer as an opportunity to shadow someone in the profession they desire
  • Visit the local farmers market.  I love to do this because I am so in awe of fresh produce and what it takes to grow it because I can’t even grow a cactus!
  • Plant a family garden
  • Check out KidsBowlFree.Com
  • Host a spa day filled with massages, pedicures, manicures, and facials for guys and girls all on the homefront using ingredients on hand.
  • Give each child a plant to “raise” for the summer
  • Design “Russian” eggs by blowing out the insides and decorating the shell
  • Study a foreign tongue using books and tapes and see how fluent you are by summer’s end
  • Listen to books on tape
  • Rearrange and/or redocorate their bedrooms together
  • Be spontaneous when the opportunity arises.  Today while parking the car at my doctor’s office, my husband noticed a Lifeline helicopter.  My husband simply asked if the kids could look at it and the pilot was delighted to oblige them.  While I went inside for my appointment, they spent the hour receiving a personalized tour of the copter and hearing many stories. 
  • Visit a half-price bookstore and allow each child to get a reasonably priced book.
  • Help an elderly relative for a day.
  • Chill out and go ice-skating in the summer
  • Have lunch on a college campus–a good way to introduce your little ones to the concept/importance/atmosphere of college.  Makes for good discussion, too.
  • Volunteer
  • Host a sleepover
  • Play in the sprinklers
  • Teach your children how to prepare simple meals by having a weekly cooking lessons (so important for later in life!)
  • If you have a game system, play with your child once in a while.  Allow them to teach you and find out why it fascinates them so.  The first time I sat down with Nicholas to play he was in total shock.
  • Try foods you have never tried before together to broaden their horizons.
  • If possible, take your child to work with you for a day.
  • Visit a relative that you haven’t seen in a while.
  • Take them for a tour of your old elementary/middle/high school
  • Do crossword puzzles–better yet, create your own.
  • Create your own story using a blank book found at teacher supply stores or craft stores.
  • Record family stories for future generations
  • Make silly family videos
  • Learn calligraphy with your kids
  • Go rock climbling
  • Visit a skateboard park
  • Play double dutch. Rhonda and I did this with a group of kids at a popular children’s spot and had a blast! There were more adults than children participating.  It was like stepping back into childhood.
  • Visit car shows, antique and contemporary
  • Go yard saling.  My mother, stepdad, and her sisters perfected this into an art.
  • Make a pillow or quilt from an old clothing
  • Open at sun tea stand
  • Visit a “bark park”
  • Bake healthy doggy treats together for your (or the neighbor’s) pooch
  • Select a book that everyone in the household reads together.  You can even have members participate on a chapter basis if time issues are a concern.  We did this last summer with “Maniac McGee.”  I began by reading it outloud and then they each took turns helping me read.  They really enjoyed this approach.
  • Upload a funny video on YouTube
  • Create a family newsletter for all relatives
  • Build something original with Legos–the sky really is the limit with this toy!
  • Chill out and go ice-skating in the heat of the summer–need I say more?
  • Your suggestion here:

Here are pictures of our “family stones.”  Enjoy your summer!

Family Stones


Painted Stones

I’m Their Stepmom, Not Hers


As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I reached a vey obvious conclusion–hence the title.  I think I have been trying far too hard to establish a working CoMama relationship with her.  I see now that this energy would have been better spent on forging a relationship with the kids, especially Ethan.  Evan and I already have a close bond.  In a sense, it doesn’t really matter if she and I have a relationship or not as long as we treat each other cordially.  I can’t guarantee that she will abide by this principle, but I am certain that I will (think Romans 12:18).

This thought occurred to me as we celebrated Ethan’s birthday.  It felt so good to see him relaxed and happy.  That’s what matters the most–their happiness and growth. 

I know that the kids were aware of our past animosity.  I felt ashamed by this and felt if they saw us working through it that they would’nt feel so divided.  She after all is their mother so they have that automatic loyalty to her–whether she is right or wrong.  I am only joined to them through marriage.  And what kid feels comfortable around someone who doesn’t like their mom?  We have never badmouthed her around the kids, even though I know she has been obscenely vocal about her rancor toward me and my husband, she is still mom…

 In other words I didn’t feel good about having them choose sides and putting them in the middle.  Kids should allowed to be kids–not miniature liasions for immature, narcistic adults.  With this in mind I’ve attempted to build a bridge with their mom and involve her as much as possible in their lives.  However, she continues to be paranoid and stressed about a situation she is helpless to change.  She refuses to accept any acts of grace for the simple fact that she is not a gracious person.  Therefore anyone extending her any type of kindness makes her suspicious.  In her eyes kindness is a facade for a hidden agenda or two.

Regardless of who she is I owe it to them to be the best stepmom that I can be.  I don’t owe her anything.  This is such a liberating notion because I’ve carried the burden of trying to help her deal with her imprisonment for far too long.

And not to say that I don’t wish that it could be different, because I truly do.  But, most importantly I see that the kids also need and deserve help lifting their burdens.  The burdens of violence and dysfunction that they lived with for so long under her watch.  They really had no choice.  Eliza, an adult, had choices.  Unfortunately she made the wrong one and will have to live through it, as do her children.  Hopefully my role as stepmom can make Ethan and Evan’s journey in life more bearable .

Meal Time Antics: The Food Critic


Wow!  It’s hard to believe I have been away from the site for a month now.  Dealing with everything has left me drained.  My grandmother was released from the hospital four days ago and is regaining her strength.  Kierra is healing well and actually started summer school.  She has two weeks left!  In one week Kierra will be with us for her second half of summer vacation.  I traveled to Phoenix to help my mother move to Seattle.  Then of course there is Ian and Imani!  Needless to say I have been extremely busy.

We are still adjusting to Ian and Imani being with us full time.  I am off work for the summer so I have been at home with them during the day.  Ian started waking me up every morning by banging on the bedroom door.  The first time he did this, it scared me silly.  I had a headache for the rest of the afternoon.  Finally my husband started leaving the television on Sprout for them until I woke up.

While school was in session I normally left the house before my husband and the kids.  So I did not know what he fed them for breakfast.  Since I have been home I have had “spats” with Ian about what they would eat for breakfast.  Imani pretty much goes with the flow.  Ian insists on having Pop Tarts for breakfast.  I had something else in mind, like cereal, rice, sausage, toast, and fruit, not all at once, but different variations of this.  On occasion I would fix pancakes which he loves and expects everyday.  He would sit at the table and pout.   I  would remind him that if he didn’t start eating his cereal they would become soggy.  Relunctantly he would eat his cereal.

We have the same exchange for lunch.  Ian is content eating hotdogs and noodles everyday for lunch and dinner for that matter.  I explain to him that there are other things he will have to eat.

Dinner time is a whole new experience.  Ian, Imani, and my husband are usually outside while I am preparing dinner.  On occasion I will ask them what they want to eat.  Imani always says baked spaghetti.  You all already know what Ian wants.  Hotdogs and noodles!

Sunday was no different than any other day.  I cooked sliced steak marinated in lemon juice and soy sauce poured over a bed of rice with zucchini.  As soon as Ian came in and washed his hands and sat at the table he started complaining.

Ian- ugh, I do not like cucumbers.

Me- Those are not cucumbers, it’s zucchini.

Imani-I like zucchini.

Ian- Well, I do not like that either.

Husband- Yes you do.  You liked it when we went to Benihana.  You also ate it when Rhonda made it last week.

Ian- I do not remember eating it at Benihana.

Husband- You ate everything we ordered for you.

Ian- I do not remember that.

Ian starts pushing the zucchini to the side of his plate.  He then eats the steak.

Ian- Ugh, this meatloaf is hard.

Me- It’s steak.

Ian-I do not like staek.

Me- You ate it when we went to Texas Road House.  You also ate it when Grandma fixed it.

Silence for a while….

Ian-Yucky, yucky, yucky.

Husband- Ian you are going to eat your food.  If you have to sit here all night you will eat it.  ( I remember those exact words said from my mother’s mouth when I was a kid!)

Everyone finished eating before Ian.  One by one we got up from the table.  Usually we sit there and talk until everyone is done but I had enough of the sound effects coming from Ian.

Ian and Imani think snacks are things they receive if they eat all of their food.  Or things that you eat if you don’t want what is being served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Explaining the concept of a snack has left me with a headache plenty of times.

In time I hope the road to dinnertime with become less bumpy.

13: From Tween to Teen


Last Friday we celebrated Ethan’s 13th birthday.  My gift to him was room make-over, something that was a long time coming.  I bought new bedding, valances, a shelf, storage bins, and framed art.  I also used things that Evan made in art therapy.  We sent Ethan outside to play baseball while we got busy cleaning and redecorating.  After we finished the room looked great!  He also got a couple of new outfits and a baseball game for the PSII.  I think he was really pleased even though he simply said thank you.  I am learning that this just may be the kind of personality that he has.  He has a hard time showing emotion–whether it be happiness or sadness.


Right before we left out for dinner at Cheeseburger in Paradise, Ethan’s middle brother called and I answered the phone.  He did not ask to speak to Ethan; instead he asked if we had intentions of celebrating Ethan’s birthday.  I found this to be a strange question coming from an 11-year-old child.  It sounded like something an adult would inquire about.  I replied that we indeed had plans.  He didn’t respond and just held the line so I told him that I would have Ethan call him later.


I hate to sound so suspicious, but I’m sure Eliza put him up to making that call.  Why though?  At the last visit she discussed how she thought that birthday parties were overrated (I believe her new way of thinking has a lot to do with the deadly incident that happened at the last birthday party that she crashed.).  I agreed and talked about the Birthdays Without Pressure movement.  I told her that our approach was low key and more family oriented for such celebrations.  Therefore she should have concluded from that conversation that we were planning on doing something.  It’s almost like she doesn’t trust us enough to nurture and celebrate the children.  What gives?  This caused me to ruminate over our situation and I reached an obvious conclusion that I will post about tomorrow.

Party of Six


We started off as a family of three, then overnight five, and now Jazmine, my 21-month-old niece, makes six.

Jazmine is my middle brother’s daughter.  Her mom is incarcerated in the same prison as Eliza, believe it or not.  My brother was doing the best he could with her but I knew that I could do better.  My niece needed me.

I know that it worried my mother that my brother was raising her alone.  And shortly after she died I decided to get her longterm.  In fact, I took her home from the hospital that very night.  I kept her for a week and relunctantly returned her back to my brother’s care after the funeral.  I couldn’t stop thinking about her.  My brother wasn’t doing so well dealing with his grief.  He wasn’t taking good care of himself and thus was inacapable of taking appropriate care of Jazmine.  I toyed with the idea of getting her on a permanent basis but I was just so tired!  Then practical thoughts about daycare and really just starting all over again scared me into not taking action.  I knew I would have to sacrifice a lot.  I also knew that I would need my husband’s help and consent.

So I left it alone but God didn’t.  He put it on my heart to get her and filled my head with constant thoughts of her.  He reminded me that he would give me all the strength and resources I would need to take care of her.   He cleared the path for me.  Therefore I had no reason not to get her.  Even before I could pose the question to my husband, he already knew what I needed to do.  He immediatedly encouraged me to get her which relieved me greatly.

I had no idea how my brother would feel.  When I approached him with my suggestion, he was pridefully hesitant at first.  I think too that he may have been slightly offended because he thought he was doing just fine.  I pointed out how he could not even comb her hair adequately or that he could hardly find a sitter for her while he was at work.  I gently reminded him that I was there to help beacuse I was his sister–not a social worker.  I also pointed out that she was my niece, too.  I guess my arguement was convincing enough because he gave me permission to take her with me that following weekend.

That was over four months ago.  Jazmine is like the daughter I never had.  She is an adorable, smart, and inquistive child.  I just really love her so, as does my husband.  She is the little princess of the house.  Just ask the boys!

Not to say that I haven’t had to get used to having a little one around.  I have in a major way.  I can no longer sleep in, we now have day care expenses, frequent diaper changes, the pain of teething, immunizations, potty training in the very near future (can’t seem to remember training Nicholas because he was SO easy!), carrying a diaper bag (can’t seem to do this! I just stuff a couple in my purse or stash them in the car.  My husband finds this hilarious!), and pushing a stroller to name a few new routines that have been added to my already complicated life.

But she is a real peach.  She often calls both me and my husband “Mommy,” which I find hilarious!   Every time I whip out the camera she automatically says “Cheese!”  She loves to talk on the phone and says “hello” just like Scooby Doo.  One time I was talking to Rhonda on the phone when I noticed that someone had picked up the line.  I was confident that it had been picked up at Rhonda’s house because only Jazmine and I were at home at the time.  When Rhonda checked the phones in her house and gave the all clear, I realized that it could only be at my house.  Still in disbelief I said “Jazmine?,” and just as clear as day, she said “what?”  To this day, Rhonda and I still get a good laugh at that episode.  

 I am a neatnik and I think I may have rubbed off on her.  When I sweep, she dashes to get the dustpan.  After eating she meticiuosly picks up even the tiniest of crumbs.  If the plate she is eating from is paper, she puts it in the trash pail afterwards without being prompted.

In a way she is helping me heal.  I know that my mother would have wanted me to help my brother.  If my mom is watching us, I know she is pleased.  And that is a great feeling.  So I actually  feel quite lucky to have her.  Even when she is being “Jazmania” as I like to call her when she is having one of her frequent temper tantrums.  Still, I know I made the right decision.  Yet I know we will all be sad to see her go upon her mom’s release.

Turn, Turn, Turn


Dealing with Eliza’s paranoia is down right exhausting.  It just overwhelms me the way that she processes life.  Case in point, yesterday I received a letter from her that clearly displays what I am talking about.  She wrote under the guise of seeing how the boys were doing.  However, her real intent was to throw “verbal stones.”  Here’s an excerpt of parts of her long rambling letter that troubled me:

I have written all of my boys every week for the past two years.  After you stated that it was instructed for Evan not to be able to speak to me even after the court order.  I can’t help but to wonder if my baby is receiving all or any of his mail.  And it worries me.  I don’t know what these people were told but I am not and never have been an unfit parent so there is no reason why such actions should have been made without properly notfying me…

I pray that you can see my position in this situation…

If for some reason Evan hasn’t been receiving his mail I could only imagine the effect that it has taken on him.  Regardless of any past feelings toward me  it is in the best interest of Evan to know and feel that he is loved by his mom and if his mail has been or is being held this I know is very hurtful to him–not to mention it’s just wrong.  I pray this is not the case at all.  But Morocco can you blame me for worrying?  You know in your heart that I love my boys dearly and their good upbringing shows very clearly.  Evan’s behavior disability should not be taken advantage of by any means.  I pray me voicing my concerns have not offended you.  I apologize in advance if the contents of this letter has in any way.  However right now Morocco I really don’t know what to think.  But I do know that there are things that need to be addressed.  I can only pray that God continues His work with our situation.  He  has already begun and though we still may have ironing we can rest assure that God is still at work.

First of all, I have assured Eliza on several occassions that Evan has been receiving his mail.  I’m puzzled as to why she thinks that he doesn’t considering that when he writes back, he often makes mention of something she said.  We have nothing to gain by holding them from him.

Evan’s therapist did not feel that it was a good idea for her to get him more stirred up during his manic phase.  Again, she has no way of speaking to him anyway because she is in prison–the facility does not accept collect calls and I don’t think any judge would force them to do so.  She has not even been able to arrange a third party call to call our home to speak to Ethan so…??? I’m guessing that she just wants to have SOMETHING to complain about.

Unfit parent, hmm, I don’t think she is necessarily unfit (she did keep them clothed, fed, and sheltered), but I do think she is unbalanced and unhealthy.  She has killed someone in front of them, been in MANY fights in front of them, had them removed from her custody for neglect, been in MANY volatile verbal confrontations in front of them, alienated and kept them from their father–do you catch my drift?  Much of what has been told to the therapist came from Evan’s own mouth. 

Notfying her?  She is not the custodial parent so they don’t have to do so.  It hurts when the shoe is on the other foot, which is why I do keep her informed.  There are SO many things that she didn’t inform my husband of, but we don’t hold that against her because I know that an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.

Who is she praying to–the Devil?  Her blasphemy scares me.

I have told her several times that the past is the past.  Apparently it is not for her.  I think she remembers how she kept Evan and Ethan away for years and is afraid that we are going to sneak and use that against her one day.  I don’t know why she feels this way because we haven’t yet.  I take them down for monthly visits faithfully, I send pictures, school work, and report cards, I encourage them to write her, I keep her informed about their development, and I make sure that they acknowledge her on all special occassions.  What more can I do–seriously?

This is the second letter in which Eliza has mentioned how she has done such a good job with the boys.  I think she wants me to agree with her.  The problem with that opinion is that I don’t, so I can’t validate that for her.  We have picked up where she has left off.

Yes, I can blame her for worrying.  If she has handed her situation over to God as she has told me that she has many times, she shouldn’t worry.  I sent her the Serenity Prayer months ago.  The lack of control she has over this is killing her.

Behavior disability??? Try mental illness.  It blows my mind that she wants to keep her child crippled.  I can’t understand why she does not want him to get better.  We are getting him the help he needs–not at all taking advantage of him.  That was really hurtful to me.  I almost think that she has something to hide.

She doesn’t care about offending me.  She lives in her own world and plays by some set of imaginary rules that she created.  And she finds a way to contort any information that I provide her with.  I was momentarily offended and upset, but then I decided it was fruitless and made the choice not to be.  Being offended and angry about her character is like getting mad at a bee for stinging.  You can’t get mad–it’s what they do.  They were born to sting.

 The primary emotion I experienced after reading her letter was sadness.  I just feel so sad because she is making herself miserable.  I know she has a lot of time on her hands and is probably listening to the advice of many “prison lawyers,” but her paranoia is getting ridiculous.  And it doesn’t have to be this way.  We should use our problems as stepping stones to get us to a better place.  I am here for her, but only if she will allow me to be.  Though I refuse to allow her to enmesh me in her mess.  I knew one day soon the tides would turn, and surely enough, they have.  But I am not going to “turn” with her.  Here is my response to her letter:


Hi, I am well, thank you for inquiring.  The boys are doing fine, too.  They are both participating in the “Summer Spectacular Reading Program” again this year.

Evan is doing awesome! God has been answering our prayers.  He really loved the picture that you sent of your mom.  He was so excited to receive it.

Take care,


I am proud of myself for not letting her manipulate me into something I am not.

sMother Love


Through the conversations we’ve had and letters we’ve exchanged, I’ve noticed that Eliza has chosen to ignore the fact that she had help creating her children with the aid of another person–namely my husband.  She has worked rather hard to make herself the center of Ethan and Evan’s life by cutting out their father.  She seems unconcerned about how damaging this practice is. By constantly telling Ethan and Evan”our family consists of me and your brothers,”  eliminates my husband, myself, and our son from their lives.  It also sends the message that she is the only one who cares for them.  She is not completely off the mark in her train of thought because she is their family.  But we are also their family.  What is wrong with loving your children enough to allow others to love them? 

Eliza has never referred to them as “their” sons, but always “my boys.”  She never even mentions their dad. I know these might sound like trite examples, but there has been a lot of subtle brainwashing over the years that have helped her achieve this effect.  Loving your children is totally instinctive–this I know.  But it is possible to blur the line of sMothering them with love so much that they can’t function without the one who smothers.  This is a twisted, tainted, dangerous love.  Think Sante and Kenny Kimes

 The last two therapists working with Evan have commented on this phenomenon, going so far as to inquire if Eliza has ever been inappropriate with them.  In fact, last week Evan’s residential treatment therapist posed this very question, noting some of the troubling behavior that Evan displays that is consistent with children who have been molested by an adult.

That makes three licensed mental health professionals who have wondered about the appropriateness of Eliza’s love for her children.  This leaves a sour taste in my mouth.  For all of the opinions that I have about Eliza and her parenting skills, and I have plenty, I just can’t accept this.  I know it is possible, but I just don’t want to believe it.  However, I do think that she sMothers her children with love.  I sense that she is afraid of losing them and views them as all that she has.  In a way she treats them like she would a boyfriend, without the sexual relationship.  She even calls them “Mommy’s Little Men.”  When she has a real man in her life, she tends not to sMother them as much–to the point where they are often left to their own devices.

The social worker assigned to the CPS case felt that Eliza had an unhealthy attachment to all three of her children.  In fact, she described it as “emotional incest.”  I found this interesting considering that Eliza is an incest survivor. S he is may be emulating what she knows. Eliza’s main problem is that she does not know how to love in a healthy manner.  Her father obviously “loved” her inappropriately, which could explain why she feels that it is not important for her children to know the love of their father.  She has serious trust issues and in her mind she probably thinks that she is keeping her children safe from any potential danger, as imaginary and unwarranted as it may be.  Her father sent her the wrong message about men which has caused her to parent in a paranoid, possessive, obsessive manner. 

There are two novels that I have read in which the mom reminds me of Eliza.  The first one is called Loverboy by Victoria Redel.  The second, which I have posted about before, is Mother’s Boys by Bernard Taylor.  In fact, she is so similar to the character Judith Farrell that it chilled me to the bone when I read it.

Last month when Ethan and I went to visit her, she greeted him with the usual kiss on the lips.  This always makes me uncomfortable.  Ethan will be thirteen in less than two weeks and I feel that a new location for a kiss would be more appropriate.  Next she had him get her a piece of Kleenex and proceeded to give his nose a thorough, deep cleaning.  Call me prudish, but I was really mortified for Ethan.  After the intensive cleaning, she explained that it was her job as his mommy to get the “friends” out of his nose.  I remained silent and worked on keeping the look of disbelief off my face.   On the ride home I asked Ethan if he was embarrassed by her cleaning out his nose.  Much to my surprise,  he said no!  Nicholas at age 9 doesn’t even like it when I kiss him in front of his friends.  

Or maybe this is just one small way that she exercises her right to mother her boys under the situation she is in.  Sometimes it’s just so hard to tell…

Pictures on the Wall


Like Kweenmama, my home is my castle and I am the queen.  And the the objects that I chose to display reflect this.  Ethan’s comment about not being in vacation pictures was like an ephiphany.  Maybe part of the reason that Ethan has been so standoffish is because he does not feel welcomed in his home…

It has been been a huge adjustment  for everyone having an instantly larger family.  But maybe I haven’t been sensitive enough to the fact that it was probably a lot harder for Ethan and Evan to make the transition.  Especially considering the situation that landed them on our doorstep.  They had also lived with their uncle for two months prior to coming to our home.  Eliza was pretty much snatched away from them, even though it was by her own doing.

I had long ago taken down the old pictures of them that used to hang in our home.  After Eliza forbade my husband to see them and the court would not force her to do so, he could barely stand to look at their pictures without getting upset.

On the ride from Wisconsin I pondered over his comment.  If you walk through our house, photos of Nicholas can be found everywhere.  And I do mean everywhere, even in the bathroom and the kitchen!  My aunt affectionately refers to our house as “Nicholas’ Musuem.”

When the boys came to us, we quickly converted a spare room into their bedroom.  They were literally dropped off at our doorstep so we had no time to redocorate and of course, this extra room contained several pictures of Nicholas, too.  And it still does.  I had planned on getting around to making the room “theirs,” but the only thing I have managed to do is buy new bedding.

Out of the mouths of babes we can gain much wisdom.  I’ll admit that I don’t really want to rearrange my home because I like it the way it is.  But I know that I have to.  I looked around last night trying to decide what pictures of Nicholas to remove.  I couldn’t find a single one because I love them all.  I love the picture of him that graces the sofa table that was photographed in just the right light that highlights his chubby, cherubic toddler face.   And I am especially fond of the one I snapped of him lounging placidly on his toybox smiling perfectly for the camera.  I love the black and white photo in which he is grinning so impishly.  I could go on and on…

Most importantly I want Ethan and Evan to be able to look around and KNOW that they belong.  The house belongs to us all, just as I’ve come to understand that the kids, in a sense belong to us all–Eliza, my husband, and myself.    Despite the fact that I was not intentionally trying to exclude them from our family, that was the message being sent.  

 I think Ethan felt this way even more so than Evan.  At least his artwork is displayed prominently throughout the house.  But subconsciously I felt that Eliza was going to come whisk them away sooner or later–so why make any changes?  I remember how hurt my husband and I both felt when the court returned them to her three summers ago.  They left without a second thought and we did not see them again until Eliza was arrested. 

This afternoon I plan to stop by Michael’s and Hobby Lobby to get some picture frames and mats.  I have a little redecorating to do.