Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Card and Letter

First... the obligatory Christmas Card....

Now for the official letter that I normally would include in a Christmas card if I was on top of things and had ordered cards this year.  But frankly I'd like to include many pictures, so this will work better in blog form. For those of you who sent us Christmas cards... thank you! I will try hard to get actual cards out next year.

This year has been the hardest we have ever handled as a family, since Marshall and I got married 17 years ago.

In May, my sister and her family offered to have our daughter come to live with them for the summer. There is a lot of love between all three kids, and these pictures were taken the day before our daughter left, and the day she left, respectively.

Two days after our daughter arrived in Chicago, an anonymous call from Chicago was made to Los Angeles Child Protective Services, accusing us of neglect of our daughter.  We believe the call was made by the clinic where my sister tried to seek Psychiatric care for Marlie, though since the call was "anonymous" we do not have proof.  Exactly one week after our daughter left, we had a surprise visit from a CPS Social Worker at our front door.  As we knew we had nothing to hide, we let the Social Worker in the house.  We have since learned that was a poor decision on our part. If a Social Worker from CPS ever arrives at your house, do NOT allow them inside the home. Instead, get their card and call a lawyer. Once the Social Worker gained entrance in our house, she was not concerned about our daughter who was in Chicago, but rather focused on our boys.  We provided names and numbers of all the professionals in our life (Psychiatrist, Pediatrician, Dentist, etc.). Despite all of them enthusiastically supporting us as parents, the Social Worker returned with her own health care professional to inspect the boys.  I was told point blank that I had to stop homeschooling. (which I did not) Both boys were interviewed individually on more than one occasion (though the boys described their experiences as "interrogations" rather than interviews) Marshall and I were not allowed to be in their presence, and the boys were not allowed to be interviewed together. Both boys said they felt severely pressured, repeatedly, to admit to being sexually abused, which they have not been.  Several things were said by the Social Worker during her visits that made both boys (and us) believe there was a very real possibility the boys would be removed from our home.  One of the things she said was that if our daughter returned to the home and hurt the boys, the boys would be removed.  This was terrifying and traumatizing to us all. Some of the complaints the Social Worker made about us were: homeschooling, feeding the boys Pop Tarts for breakfast and clutter in the home.  Despite complying with them 100%, we felt we were being bullied and harassed, so we contacted HSLDA, which provides legal defense for homeschooling families.  Even with a lawyer, things that were demanded of us were physical evaluations of Marshall and I, by our doctor, who had to write letters stating that we are physically capable of parenting our sons, as well as a letter from our Family Therapist stating our mental competency as parents. Later there was a demand for a 3rd interview with our boys, but our lawyer refused, as did Marshall and I due to the trauma the last two interviews caused them. Instead we were asked to get another letter from our doctor stating what medications Marshall and I were on, and the doses of each medication. In the end we consented to the Social Worker checking out the boys, in our presence, in our driveway, with no interview. She agreed. The four of us have been severely traumatized by this experience, especially the boys, and we are now in Family Therapy trying to heal from this experience. Despite having a very competent lawyer, this investigation dragged on for FIVE months, only to have our case finally closed and no action taken against us. Our lawyer informed us that our experience with CPS was unfortunately very common, especially in Los Angeles County, and we could take legal action against them if we so choose, however it would be very costly and we do not want to put our boys through any more than they have had already been put through.

These are devastating pictures for me to look at and share, but it shows the pain that the four of us were going through during the CPS investigation.

We found ourselves in a family crisis with the CPS investigation.  Daily meltdowns from our boys were common.  We did several mini vacations just to get away and try to heal and nurture each other as a family.  Marshall and I did several 1:1 "dates" with each of the boys and have tried to spend as much time together as a foursome as possible.

After consulting with my sister, we made a decision to let our daughter stay in Chicago for the school year. For staying in touch with her, we have been FaceTime'ing. We also bought her a cell phone on our family plan so she can talk on the phone with us whenever she wants.

The absence of our daughter also added to the stress of our family. We have missed her very much and had a terrible time adjusting to her absence, as we still are.  Unfortunately we don't know much about how our daughter is doing in therapy and school, other than what our daughter has told us herself. This experience has been very rough on the relationship between my sister and myself. Repeated requests for information about our daughter have gone unanswered by my sister. We will be flying to Chicago to spend her birthday (Christmas Eve) and Christmas with her and are very much looking forward to seeing her as we miss her so much. We don't know what is best for our daughter in the long run, or what is best for our sons. These are decisions we will have to make as they come, after much prayer.

As if we weren't under enough stress this year, the IRS put a tax lien on our house, which was a mistake on the part of the IRS. After some time and many conversations with the IRS, our accountant was able to get it sorted out and the tax lien was removed.

Marshall's debit card number was stolen from a device he used to pay for something, and $1000 was cleaned out of our bank account in a matter of hours. Thankfully our bank's fraud department was alerted and the money was returned, but still not a fun experience to go through.

Last October (technically 2012) I was hospitalized for 4 days as a result of severe vomiting and severe bleeding from my no-no hole. (Lovely picture I painted for you, huh? Want to see pictures of my colonoscopy?  Kidding. I do have them, but I'm not posting them.)  I was diagnosed as having Acute Colitis.  When I never fully recovered, I had many more tests, another colonoscopy, endoscopy and blood tests to find out what was going on.  The Specialists and our Family Internist agreed that I now have stress-induced Severe IBS. (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)  This sadly is not something controlled by diet but rather by the amount of stress I am feeling and how I am managing the stress.  So I plan to live the rest of my life stress-free. (just seeing if you are still paying attention) This has played a big part in how our year has gone, directly related to the amount of stress we have been under. I've named my colon, "Bob the Douchebag Dragon" so I have something to blame when I'm feeling awful.  "Yeah, Bob is really being a jerk today." "Bob hates me."  "I hate Bob."  "Bob is an a-hole."  I realize this may make me sound a little crazy but it helps me to be able to complain about Bob rather than repeatedly using the term "my colon". Ewww.

Also last October the owner of the Kung Fu school my kids attended moved to Colorado and the school closed.  We made the decision to get rid of our fancy Ethan Allen furniture in the living room since we never used the room and turned it into a home dojo so they could continue to train under the Kung Fu Master.  I even found purple mats!



Ever since, The Kung Fu Master has been coming to our house three days a week for 90 minute lessons with the boys so they could continue their Kung Fu training.  Also, with the addition of Bob the Douchebag Dragon to my life, the Kung Fu Master started training me in Tai Chi and Qigong, to help with my stress management.

Despite the many challenges this year, there were some highlights...

Marshall and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. A couple of months later when his parents came in town for a visit, we got away for a 3 day vacation, the first time we have had a kid-free vacation in years.  It was wonderful!

Seamus had a birthday and turned 9 this year.  There was about a month where Seamus existed only in his Ironman suit, which was pretty darn funny, especially in public.

Puberty has hit Haven full blast. At age 13 he is now 4 inches taller than me and STILL GROWING, and his voice is lower than Marshall's.  I'm trying to not freak out about that. Here he is performing one of my favorite Martial Arts forms, "Noe Pa".

We got a new kitten this year.  For those of you counting, that makes our current cat count: SEVEN. Only six are inside the house. (as if that makes it any better)  Our new kitten is of a fairly new breed of cat called, "The Highlander".  We named him "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod".  And for short, we call him "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod". And of course there can be only one. We reserved him back in April when he was 4 days old, so little did the breeder know at the time that he would end up being the best of the litter. She very grudgingly told us that when we picked him up. Ha! (she would never have sold him if she had known)  The "Highlander" breed are known for having ears that curl back, polydactyl paws (extra toes) and a bob tail.

The very next morning, the entire cat "pack" was well aware there was an addition to the family.

Once he was big enough to introduce to the other cats, it only took a couple of days before he was fully integrated into the cat pack. 

Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod is truly a very loving, purr-box of a kitty that is very silly and is right at home with the rest of the cats. We're lucky they all get along so well.  Often we will find all six of them on the couch with us in the evenings.

Our breeder asked us to submit a photo of him to see if he would get accepted into the 2014 "Highlander" breed Calendar.  You are now looking at "Mr. August".  (picture by Marshall)

We were able to do our yearly trip to Yosemite this Fall, which we scheduled the day the park re-opened. Marshall of course took fancy pictures with his fancy camera, but these are the favorite ones I took with my iPhone.

Hey anyone can take a picture of a deer, but can everyone take a picture like this? 

Last week Haven and Seamus endured a 5 hour Kung Fu test at our house, with the two of them, Sensei Trenton and Master Jack.  At the end of the very grueling test, Seamus earned his red belt in Kung Fu, and Haven is now a black belt in Kung Fu! I am very, very proud of them both.

Next week Marlie turns 8 and Haven turns 14!  Now it is time for me to end this thorough report of our most challenging year.  We are very much hoping 2014 will be an improvement over 2013.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all of you!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

The Love Of My Life

Oh wait... you thought I was talking about purple, right?  No, I'm talking about my husband, Marshall. The guy who told his parents (when he was 19 years old) he met the girl he was going to marry one month after meeting me, then proposed to me a few months later.  The guy who never pressured me when I said I was going to remain a virgin until my wedding night. The guy who married me when he was 20 years old, seventeen years ago this month.

I think I am married to one of the most romantic husbands on this earth.  Seriously, if there was an award for the most romantic husband, he'd totally win. Was he romantic before the wedding? Sure. He'd give me thoughtful gifts on my birthday, Christmas and Valentine's Day.  Since the day we met until the day we married (a year and 3 months), we only spent 3 months in the same town.  During our months apart, he wrote me lovely romantic letters.

Then we got married. Our first Valentine's Day together, I was so excited.  I got him a card and a couple of gifts.  He got me... NOTHING.  Yep. Nothing, Nada, Zilch.  You see he was under the impression that celebrating Valentine's Day was something you did when you were dating, but you didn't celebrate when you were married.  I didn't throw a hissy fit or anything, but I couldn't hide the hurt in my eyes when I handed him my gifts and card when we both knew he didn't have anything for me.

He says that was a turning point for him.  He never wanted to see the hurt on my face again.  He has spent the rest of our marriage making me feel like the most important woman in the world to him, and treating me like a queen.

Being romantic doesn't always mean you need to spend a lot of money.  It can mean picking up your wife's favorite magazine from the grocery store while you are there, simply to tell her you were thinking of her.  Or you can go all out, like Marshall did for our 15th wedding anniversary, where he booked a surprise vacation for us (I knew we were going somewhere... just didn't know the location) to Maui for 8 days, via first class.  He even booked our activities, including spa treatments for me. THAT was amazing!

There was the time my 30th birthday was coming up.  I was lamenting the end of my 20's.  I was mopey for the months prior to my birthday.  Planning on wearing black on my birthday.  (I know, I know... what I wouldn't give to be turning 30 this year. *sigh*)  Marshall told me he had to run out and get something.  Then he walked in with someone.  I heard footsteps behind me and saw Marshall walk in with my college best friend, who I had not seen since our wedding 9 years prior.  He flew her in, booked us both at this exclusive spa for the entire day of my birthday, including having lunch delivered to us from Cheesecake Factory while we sat in our robes, between treatments.  Obviously that knocked all the wind out of my mopey sail.

And this past birthday he had my breast friend Jamie show up at my door in the morning, only to announce to me that Marshall had booked us treatments at the spa, and then she was taking me out to eat, and then to a movie at the Fancy iPic Theater while Marshall watched the kids.  That was an amazing day!  Okay, much of the fun Jamie can take credit for, but Marshall giving me up & watching the kids so I could spend the day with Jamie? Priceless.

There was the day my very favorite show, that had run 7 seasons, was airing it's final episode.  I couldn't wait to see the finale but was sad it was ending. (If you MUST know, it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer)  About 5 minutes prior to the show starting, Marshall lit candles all over the room so that we were surrounded by candle light and turned off all the other lights. Then he cuddled with me under a blanket while we watched the last episode.  That didn't cost a thing, yet it was an amazingly romantic thing for him to do.

There was another birthday where Marshall surprised me by driving to Torrance, CA to see the house they used for where Buffy the Vampire Slayer lived and the school they used for her high school.

One year I had grown very close to three other women over the internet and we were in contact with each other daily, providing friendship, support and many laughs with each other.  He arranged to have them fly out and show up at my door at the same time.  They stayed across the street at my in-laws' vacation house and we had the time of our lives, despite us all meeting each other for the first time in person.

There has been a lot of jewelry and Coach purses and flowers he's surprised me with over the years. They have always been MUCH appreciated, but many of the romantic things my husband has done has not cost a thing.

After having a stressful month, the doorbell rang and one of my good friends stood there, ready to take me out for drinks for the evening.  Marshall called her and arranged it.  Another surprise for me, but one that said how special I am to this man, who cares about me getting to spend some time to unwind with a great friend.

So you see, I am married to one of the most romantic men on this earth.  One who often tells me he loves me. One who often shows me he loves me.  One who reminds me I am first in his life.  One who makes me think the sun rises and sets on my shoulders for him.  One who makes me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world.  One who will run out late at night and get chocolate for me during my period. (That's almost more important than jewelry. Almost.)  One who let me paint the house purple!  And add glitter to the stucco! One who has supported me in everything I've done, and in everything I've ever wanted to do.  One who has given me every single thing I've asked for, except for a chicken or a pig.  That's okay, I don't need a chicken or a pig, when I have this amazing, romantic man that is my own.

Thank you to Matt from Life in the Fishbowl who challenged us to write about romantic things our husbands have done for us and inspired me to write this post!

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My Purple House Featured!

Hey guys,

I've been a long time customer of The Purple Store.  I even have them listed FIRST on my sidebar on places where you can shop for purple.  They asked for permission to write about my house in their newest newsletter, which came out today.  Here is the part about me and my sparkly purple house!!

I'm so excited!! And if you were brought to my blog from their newsletter, WELCOME!!! You can read the whole story of how we ended up with a purple house on the tab below the header, "Why My House Is Purple".  

Over the years, I've purchased several items from The Purple Store, including two purple, pre-lit with purple lights, Christmas Trees!! As well as their fabulous shiny kettle that they can't seem to keep in stock because they keep selling out.  To be featured by one of your favorite stores... well, I can tell you it's a pretty awesome feeling.  Keep it purple guys!!

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Monday, August 5, 2013

It's A Nice Day For A... Purple Wedding

For the past two years Marshall has been doing the sound effects mixing for the Tyler Perry Movies.  It seems with Mr. Perry that when he finds the people he likes, he keeps them, so now Marshall is part of the crew.  It's like a little family.  The Sound Supervisor on these movies invited us to his daughter's wedding, which was this past Saturday.  I decided to get my hair and makeup done, since I rarely do that.  Here is my dress.  Yes, it's primarily purple... what do you expect? 

Here's a closeup of the material.  It has little mirrored circles that add sparkle. 

I showed the pictures of my dress to the make-up artist and told her I was going for "subtle Egyptian".  This is what she came up with. 

I'm not gonna lie... I freaked out just a little, since my usual makeup routine (if I wear makeup) is thin eyeliner and neutral eye shadow and a little mascara.  Add a neutral color lipstick and I'm done.  No foundation, no blush, that's it.  I posted this pic and everyone told me it looked pretty and I needed to stop freaking out and go with it, so I did.  And in hindsight, I really think she did a fantastic job.  (and I topped it off with some purple lipstick of mine)

I had my hair blown dry straight by my fabulous hair stylist Carol.  As you know, I've got the purple tips on the ends of my hair.  Here's a pic.  Yeah I know my boobs are on display, but in this dress, it's quite hard to show my hair without them, so there you go.  It's a 2 for 1 deal.  Or is that a 3 for 1 deal? 

Marshall picked a light purple dress shirt to accompany me, and we snapped a pic together before we left for the wedding.  

I'm loving this picture of us. 

So we arrived at this wedding and I'm seeing purple everywhere and that's where it hit me.... THIS IS A PURPLE WEDDING!!!!  Seriously, I'm in purple heaven here.

Here is one of the adorable flower girls.

And here's the beautiful cake! 

Then the wedding started and it was fun to see that all of the bridesmaids had a different dress, each in a different shade of purple. How cool!

Marshall and I always get a little sentimental at weddings. Speaking of, at the end of this month we'll be celebrating the 17th anniversary of OUR wedding. 

Here is the beautiful bride and groom after the wedding.

During the reception I met a woman named Ruth, who's husband also works in the Tyler Perry crew.  She and I hit it off straight away and she's a big part of why I had such a fantastic time at the wedding.  She's a makeup artist and here she's having me try one of her lip glosses.  I'm dying to have her do my makeup now!  We became Facebook friends, so I WILL make this happen. 

 Here's Joi, who works with Marshall.  Not only did I find out Joi is from Orlando like me... she's from the SAME small suburb of Orlando that I am from!  AND she went to Florida State University just like I did!  That is insane!!  She is a sweetheart and I look forward to seeing her again.  

So there you have it... Marshall and I went to this fabulous purple wedding and I made new friends and had a blast.  We even did a little crazy dancing on the dance floor together.  Come on... YOU go to a wedding where they play Thriller, Billy Jean, and Baby Got Back and see if you can resist the need to shake your booty.  

And last but not least, I want to wish the bride and groom, Kimberly and Shaun, the very best on the start of their new life together!!!  Thank you for inviting us to your purplicious wedding!

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