Samuel Jerome and Richnightder

Samuel Jerome and Richnightder
Our boys in Haiti

Thursday, October 17, 2013

College visits, applesauce and fall foliage

The trees in Southern Minnesota are deliciously colorful right now.  The rolling hills and bluffs are swaddled in hues of gold, red, orange, brown and purple.  We have been deprived of the glory of the fall season having lived in North Dakota where our 80 acres had a total of ONE tree.  Sadly, that one tree would go from having some nice bright, green leaves to completely bare in about an hour and a half. 

Madison and I traveled 60 miles down Hwy 61 to Winona, Minnesota today.  It follows the Mississippi River and the bluffs that surround it on both the Minnesota side and the Wisconsin side.  It was a beautiful drive with the trees in full color.  Our journey to Winona was Madison's first college visit/tour.  Winona  State University is a pretty campus nestled at the bottom of the Mississippi bluffs, along the river and is resplendent in color right now.  The campus is about 10,000 students and seems to comprise a fair amount of diversity, which is important to Madison after having lived through the single ethnic lack-of-diversity experienced in North Dakota. 

We saw the important things on campus and culminated in the bookstore where she bought a sweatshirt.  I asked if she had chosen this as her one and only college and she informed me that she plans on getting a sweatshirt at every college we visit.  Whew!  That kid will have a lot of hoodies by the end of this Spring! 

She also took her PSAT yesterday which is another sign to me that I am indeed past my college fun-in-my-prime days.  I had to keep reminding her that the cute guys were checking me out and not her.  How silly could she be? 

I am now home, making applesauce with the abundance of apples that our trees gave us this year.  The smell in here is unbelievable!  So I'm pretty sure that my day today qualifies me for Mom-of-the-Year status.  I've watched my first born tour her first college, helped her prepare for her PSAT, marveled at the beauty of fall, and lamented her approaching college days while making applesauce.  If only all my days were this contemplative.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

All work and no pay equals our reality

Marc has the distinct pleasure of working every single day for our federal government without pay now.  He gets to go and put his life potentially in harms way all without the benefit of a pay check.  If I seem disgruntled, it's because I am.  Marc doesn't get bonuses, overtime pay, or comp. time.  He also hasn't had a pay raise in more than 3 years.  And now, he gets to go to work and not even have the promise of a paycheck.

I'm embarrassed to be an American right now.  Our Congressional members are punishing the citizens because they refuse to work towards a solution.  Why is the word 'compromise' viewed as a negative?  Why is compromise viewed as a weakness?  I do know that we would not be in this position if the members of congress were denied a paycheck until a resolution was found.  This is hard to believe.  Who are those elected officials working for?  Too bad we can't decide to vote for no pay for them! 

Rant over.  Now continue on!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What some failed to learn in Kindergarten

I won't dwell on the Paula Deen fiasco.  It's been hashed out and debated enough.  People from both sides of the camp have eloquently stated their beliefs, albeit, some with more credibility than others.

My take on this is simple.  The N word is never, ever acceptable.  It is a vile word that objectifies black people as objects and negates their humanism.  I know the arguments put forth by those that try to justify its usage:  the primary assertion is that since blacks use the N word amongst themselves, that fact alone lends itself to its acceptability in our language.  Do black people use that word...why yes they do.  Does that make it alright and an acceptable word in our vernacular?.....Why no it doesn't.  I believe that as the N word persisted throughout the generations, blacks used the words amongst themselves as a way of 'claiming' the word.  If they claimed the word and used it, then maybe it would diminish the sting felt when a white person would use it towards them.  Like I said, that's my personal belief of why some black people use the word.  Do I think it's right?  No I don't.

I think that any person using the word lowers themselves to that of a ignorant person who doesn't possess the knowledge to choose better words.  It really, really pisses me off to hear the N word uttered by anyone. 

My kids have heard this said to them in North Dakota.  They heard it directed towards them at the parsonage.  They heard the church council president tell us that he has used the N word and finds it acceptable.  Let me tell you that hearing that word directed at your children is so hurtful it's actually a physical pain.  I thought my heart with burst with sadness.  I don't know why or how some people can still justify its usage today.

For the love of God people.  It's 2013.  Did you not learn in Kindergarten that two wrongs do not make a right?  Just because someone else does something does not mean it's right or acceptable.  Why can't we go back to the golden days of Kindergarten where name calling is a no-no and treating others the way you want to be treated is the rule?  Now, everyone sit on your carpet square, criss-cross applesauce, and listen to the morning story about the brave new generation where regardless of skin color there is no name calling and everyone tries to get along.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Homesick at home

We had the best week ever with our friends here.  We had old friends and new friends.  We had 35 people and 15 kids.  It was a week full of laughter, good belly aching laughter, liquor and inside jokes.  18 of us stayed in this house for a week and we all got along without a hiccup.

The chaos that existed in this house earned the nick name of  the frat house.  In all honesty, it was like Animal House.  We had dishes in the flower pots out front, underwear in the driveway, a horse trough of water for water guns in the driveway, a broken window from a wayward baseball, red solo cups freaking everywhere, a recycling can full of liquor bottles, little boys peeing off the deck, a 24 pack of toilet paper by the front door.....that's a mystery to me....and a stampede thru the front yard of a herd of cows and last but not least, two emergency room visits.

The enclosed sun room/porch became the Renegade Lounge.  It's where we did the best story telling, drinking and laughing.  We laughed to the point that we kept the 12 children awake who pointed out that they couldn't sleep because of our loud laughter.  As a collective group, we told stories that are now legendary.  After all of our stories and laughter, we reached the unanimous conclusion that we are the normal families!  All of us passed extensive and thorough backgrounds to be given the privilege to parent our children through adoption.  We also realized we might just all be going straight to hell because of our humor.

Hell or not, I'll enjoy my company there.  Our friends are our family, the ones who will raise our children should we die, and I couldn't imagine them being raised by any other families more like us than the Watkins and Dorcheus's.  To all of our Renegade families, we anxiously await next year to see you all again and to share more fun and love.  We love you all and can't wait for next summer and a repeat of the intense fun.

Stories of adventures to follow. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Let the fun begin

Simply put, tomorrow our dear friends invade, um, er, I mean come to visit for a week or so.  All of us Laurie's are so excited that we feel like kid's on Christmas Eve.  I'm busy cleaning the house, the barn and the arena so the kids have places to play and get into trouble.  Today I'll get the laundry done and try to keep the house tidy until they arrive.  After that, I have no expectations.

The volleyball net is up. Madison and her boyfriend Tyler, Thomas and Richnigthder played a quick game last night at 9PM and ended quickly when Madison clothes-lined herself on Tyler's outstretched arm.  It was freakin' hilarious.  The soccer cones are set up for the Haitian sensations and I bought a bucket of baseballs for the kids to hit around......Way far away from the house for the window's sake....picked up some Frisbees and some nerf balls.  Buying all this stuff almost guarantees that not a single ball will be played with.  They'll most likely be running thru the dark and mysterious woods looking for dead things and collecting ticks all over their bodies.

I've got so much to do and yet I sit here with great anticipation about the fun and chaos just ahead.  We are so grateful to have such wonderful friends and to be able to meet up with some regularity.  It was just 11 months ago when we attempted our trip to Flathead Lake only to end up stranded in Butte, Montana.  Little did we know a family legend was born of that Griswold vacation.  Ever since that trip, for some odd reason, our kids think that it's normal for family vacations to visit historic brothels.  Where do my weird kids get such messed up ideas? 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shining Through

Many of you know the extreme racism that we experienced at church back in North Dakota.  It was a disgusting situation that would shock anybody in current times, or for that fact, anybody that believes we as humans are made in the image and likeness of God.  The pain we felt at the time was immeasurable. 

We feel like we've collectively come through the gates of hell and have landed in a place of refuge.  While no place is perfect, we feel good to be here.  The kids have settled in and our summer is packed with people visiting and kids' camps and sports.  Looking forward is good for us, and not looking backward. 

I prayed like crazy during that difficult time.  I prayed with fervor like I've only done a handful of times in my 4 decades + of life.  Out of our heartache and gut-punch came good things.  Things we are still trying to wrap our brains around. But even though we are happy and settled, we still have these lingering feelings of fear, panic, and entrapment that spring to the for front of our minds.  I was talking to a new friend here and she labeled the feelings as PTSD. 

I never gave the feelings a title, but I feel it's accurate.   Out of the 9 years we lived in North Dakota, we worked hard to blend in and adapt to our new living environment.  We gave of our time and sacrificed family time to help our new community.  No matter how hard we worked and volunteered, we were kept at arms length by the 'locals'.  We laughed about it then. We joked that we would never be accepted as residents since we were not born on our great grandfathers farm, attend the two room schoolhouse, the church your family helped build, marry your neighbor who lives on the farm next door, send your kids to the same two room schoolhouse and then die in the house in which you were born.  Living and dying on one road in North Dakota. 

Our family was just too much for them to integrate.  What happened at our church was a slap in the face and hindsight offers a perspective we weren't able to grasp at the moment.  We would have continued to change who we were in the hopes of being accepted by people who made it abundantly clear would never have fully accepted us as friends and neighbors.

What we learned from this experience is that while it is necessary to acclimate to whatever culture you might be living in, it's not good to lose sight of who you are.  Our family did a little introspection and realized some key traits that we have.  As a family we are kind and generous, have great sense of humours, and are proud to be an atypical appearing lot.  Not a single one of us are related by DNA, yet we have a cohesiveness that would try any of those 'one road' families in North Dakota.

We look back on our life in North Dakota and are immensely happy to be outta there.  I learned a lot about myself there.  I learned that the people of rural North Dakota are some of the friendliest people around........... if you look just like them and have similar 'one-road-life stories' to share. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's a Good Fit

Picking up where I left off yesterday brings us to the frantic week before Christmas.  Oh was that a mad dash!  Fortunately we no longer lived in the land of desperation and nothingness....North Dakota.  We have so many choices here from grocery stores to tack stores to department stores.  St. Paul and Minneapolis have it all.  It feels so good to be back among a population of diversity and choices. 

I frantically dashed through stores to get the things the kids had asked for and was pleased to have more than one Target and Walmart in which to shop.  We are 33 miles from the Mall of America and it offers just about anything anyone could ever want.  Of course my favorite store there is Nordstrom and it was like the Mother Ship had called me home.

After Christmas, I rang in the New Year with Influenza A.  Oh was that a special treat.  I had a 104 degree temp for 2 days and then it began to drop.  I went to our local hospital/clinic which is a Mayo Clinic and they were nice enough to prescribe Tamiflu for everyone else in the family which I know prevented them from getting it too.  The end of January Marc left for two weeks to go to Washington D.C.  Naturally, we had an ice storm which meant Madison had several snow days from school and that left me with 4 arguing kids at home.  UGH

February was Jerome's birthday and Marc's and for Jerome's bday, Victoria joined us from UND.  My PEO friend, Bonnie and her daughter, Hallie joined us from Bismarck.  Jerome had never been to a Chuck E. Cheese so we indulged him and tortured ourselves and took everyone to a chaotic, filthy, over-crowded pizzeria where a large mouse leads children around like the pied piper.  Victoria ended up getting sick from the disgusting place and after taking her to the doctor, she had Strep.  She left our place after staying a week and still was not feeling well, but headed back to UND.  Once there she discovered she still had Strep and in addition, Mono. 

My birthday rolled around in March and I was somewhat indulgent with myself.  I went with Marc to Sears so he could get a $10 part for the snow blower, and while he was getting that, I wandered over to the large appliances.  While he was buying that, I bought a new fridge.  It was a really good deal and the French doors function much better in this kitchen than the other fridge.  Then we went to the auto show and I kind of liked a couple of cars.  I came home and researched them and lo and behold, we ended up buying a new car on my birthday.  I love my new Durango and it too seats 7 so there is room for our newest family member, Victoria.

April saw Madison turn 16.  While she has had a valid North Dakota driver's license since she was 15, Minnesota does not license persons under 16 so as soon as she was 16 we went in to take our driver's tests here.  Seems Minnesota has a weirdo rule that licensed drivers from other states must take a written knowledge test to get a license.  I'm happy to report that Marc and I got 94% and our smarty pants kid got a 99%. 

Madison also has a new boyfriend.  He seems like a nice young man and always picks her up and drops her off without being late.  He's polite and respectful and she enjoys spending the afternoons at his house after school.  I like that his dad is home while they are there and he seems to be a plugged-in kind of dad.  I like that.

May brings up the end of the school year for Madison who started public school in January here in Cannon Falls.  She's doing VERY well.  I'm so proud of her being on the honor roll and for taking her AP and honor's classes.  My baby is even getting an A- in algebra.    Tomorrow we head back to Mayo which is 40 miles south of us so she can have her two impacted wisdom teeth removed.  I'm so glad we are so close to Mayo for all of our healthcare needs.  After living in North  Dakota where the medical care left something to be desired, we are ecstatic to be so near world class healthcare. 

The horses are out in the fields grazing happily.  Madison has enjoyed having an indoor riding arena and still uses it even in the nicer weather since two sides of the arena slide open.  The dogs love the huge fenced in dog area and the kids have enjoyed exploring the woods that surround our house.  We have confirmed that there are indeed two mountain lions that live in the woods surrounding us, a den of wolves, badgers in our field and the most annoying of all....a woodchuck.  He's eating the beautiful aspens and his little whistle like chirping is my morning wake up call.  I really hate that large rodent.  The bald eagles are abundant here and sitting on the front porch is such a treat watching them soar on the wind. 

This is our new life here in Minnesota.  Marc LOVES, LOVES, LOVES his new office and all the people he works with in the office here.  He's a happy camper.  We are working on letting the wounds and hurt feelings we experienced at church in ND scab over and begin their migration to the back of our minds.  The kids are still too scared to attend church here for fear of experiencing bullying, racism and a weak pastor, but I think we might be on the track to finding a church that feels right.  I think in time, Madison and Thomas will come around. 

We look forward to June with lots of excitement.  We have a large group of friends coming who have all adopted kids from the same orphanage that our little boys came from and all 40 of us will be doing fun things like a Twin's baseball game, Mississippi River boat trip, the Spam museuem and other 'normal' things.  Who knows?  Maybe we'll head to another historic brothel.  Ah memories. 

Life in Minnesota for us, has been good.  It's like slipping on an old shoe that you forgot you had and finding it still fits great and feels good. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

ordinary is good.

So very much has happened since my last posting.  I suppose I'll start with the big move and work forward from there.

The movers showed up and got us completely packed in 3 days instead of the 4 they anticipated it would take.  Then they loaded all of our possessions into the truck in 2 days.  We actually had a pretty good move this time.  Nothing was broken and nothing turned up missing.  Yeah.  The moving truck departed the day before we did and of course as we hit the road, we looked like the Beverly Hill Billies. 

Marc drove the pickup and horse trailer which had the 4 mini's.  In the living quarters of the trailer we had two large dog crates that contained our 8 cats.  Marc also had one Sheltie and Richnigthder for company.  I drove the Denali which had was stuffed to the gills with kids and animals.  I travelled with Thomas, 2 Rottweilers and one Sheltie, two guinea pigs, and one rabbit.  Madison drove the Mazda with Jerome, one sheltie and one rabbit.  See what I mean about the hicks hitting the road.

We caravanned from Bismarck to Minneapolis.  I led the way and we kept Madison between us as Marc brought up the rear in the truck and trailer.  We had to make it to Minneapolis in enough time to get to the title company to sign the closing documents before the end of the business day so we really couldn't make a leisurely trip out of it.  We drove 75MPH the whole way and pulled into the parking lot of the title company at 4:45 PM on December 13th.  The kids stayed in the cars while Marc and I went in to sign the documents and finally got the keys to the new place.  At 6:30 the three of us hit the road to navigate our way to the new house we had only been to twice before.   Madison had never driven in city traffic, nor rush hour traffic in the dark so the trip was a little nerve-wracking for her. 

We got to the new place and unloaded horses and animals and hit the hay....on the floor of course.  The moving truck came the next day and it took them 15 hours to unload us.  I finally sent them pun....and we began to settle in.  Our dear, wonderful friends, Todd and Tami Iszler arrived the next day with our 6 large horses.  They picked up our horses at our old place in Bismarck and then braved snowy, icy roads to make the 450 trip to Cannon Falls.  Once the large horses were unloaded in the barn, the Laurie's were officially all present and accounted for in Minnesota.

More to come tomorrow!  After all, I have 5 months to fill you in on.