Thank-you everyone for all of your kind comments, and prayers after I posted this last week. I am overwhelmed by your support.

I thought I would let you know how it's going.

Our case is closed and has a big fat inconclusive stamped on it. Which means they were unable to determine for certain that we neglect our children but since it's impossible to determine for certain that we don't apparently, they are reluctant to say unfounded in case it comes back later to bite them in the butt. But they didn't place our case in the central index for the Department of Justice/ Child Abuse.

We are currently investigating the possibility of appealing it by going over her head, but we have little hope that much will change.

We aren't moving for now. We can't really afford though we could make it happen if we really needed to. It feels paranoid to do something so drastic. We reserve the right to change our minds on that though.

And while the door closing on the GH's career has been painful, and disappointing, there are some interesting windows that have opened up in this past week that we are looking through, sticking our heads out and tasting the air. Once again we feel a bit overwhelmed with choices. And we're counting our blessings.

I'll keep you posted.


And now, back to our regular programming.****Updated

Here is the promised Lentil Shepherd's Pie Recipe

I almost forgot, what with all the recent drama and all, and plans to celebrate the GH's birthday tomorrow, about Mary's Frugal Cooking Carnival. (He's making Thai food for his own birthday celebration by the way. It's lovely being married to a man who likes to cook. And I heard something about Louisiana Style Barbecued Shrimp tonight. So we're eating anything but frugal this weekend. Actually, Thai food is pretty cheap if you know where to shop. Asian food stores people, cheap rice, produce, and meat.)

Fortunately, I write about food a lot. I have this little food blog that is sorely neglected sometimes but has, woohoo, archives. So I'm pulling this out of my hat. And I'm sorry Mary that I didn't get more organized before because I LOVE this idea, and I thought the picture of all the food and stuff would be fun.

Here is the link page for a little series I did in the winter.

I fed my family for 5 days out of, mostly, what was in my pantry and the total cost at the end was $7.53/person for 5 days. That's breakfast lunch and dinner, and snacks. So you frugal meal hunters may enjoy reading that.

Also, I'll throw in a few bonus recipes that I've not done the cost analysis for, but I guarantee they are cost effective, and tasty.

Navajo Fry Bread with Pinto Beans

Lentil and Barley Soup

I could have sworn that I already posted our family's favorite Lentil Shepherd's pie recipe over there as well. But I can't find it. It is really yummy so I think I'll have to find time later today to write it post if and I'll update with a link for you.

Happy cooking. Be sure and check out Owlhaven for more of the Frugal Cooking Carnival.


A story, and a petition

I have written this story several times in my head over the past 3 weeks. Sometimes it is defensive. Sometimes it is sarcastic. It is often angry. I've not written much because to keep writing as though nothing has happened rings false, though there are many other things going on that I could write about. And I've not written it until it has reached a semi-colon of sorts, though it is probably far from over. I am writing it now.

I was standing in my kitchen, wearing my new pretty apron that I was going to tell you all about actually, because I love it so, and making a cheesecake crust to take for dessert to my in-laws that evening. The Baby had been playing just outside the front door with the Boy and the Girl, but they had gone around the corner to the playground for a while so I had brought her inside, and she was standing in the kitchen begging for scraps. (I'll mention again for the record that we live in a gated community and the little play area is 12 steps from my front door. I dash out every couple of minutes to stand and look for a second and make sure they are still within their boundaries and they are okay. We've trained them extensively on what to do in certain situations and I give them this little bit of freedom to play together outside near the house.)

A woman knocked on my open door. A social worker. She was investigating allegations of neglect. Someone called to report that my children are naked and unsupervised and go without shoes in the winter. I asked her if she was sure she had the right house. I've written before about the children who play in our neighborhood, the kids who come to our house to play who's parents I've never even seen. I've written before about how I think they come to us because I'm home, I'm always here, and I watch out for them. I give the moms of latchkey kids my phone number and make sure they know where I live and that it's okay with them if their children are in my house while they're not home. I also tell them that their kids are welcome anytime that I'm home, and I've on more than one occasion fed them dinner and helped them with their home work. That's how I roll. How could anyone possibly think that my children are neglected?

She checked my number again and said, "No, this is the number I was given."

At this point, details might be boring for some, and very interesting to those in similar positions. I can't decide how much to go into.

I didn't let her in. I spoke to her outside. I denied the allegations. When she started asking leading and emotionally loaded questions that had nothing to do with the allegations, "When you and your husband fight does he ever hit you?" "Do you ever spank your children?" (Whether we do or not, it is not illegal by the way.) I told her I would be contacting my lawyer before I answered any of her other questions. She left. But not without informing me that she would return with a police officer if I took too long to contact her, or failed to comply. Coercive and threatening.

Chris Klicka is senior council for the Home School Legal Defense Association. They spend a lot of time defending home school families from legal misunderstandings and government agencies that don't understand all of the ins and outs of legal precedents regarding homeschooling families, and the rights of parents in general. I think I would kiss him if I ever met him in person. If that wouldn't be totally wrong for a married mother of 3 to do to a married father of 7. Before I talked to him I was, well, terrified. On my doorstep was a woman who had the authority to take away my children, and who was predisposed to assume my guilt in the matter. I felt dizzy, there was buzzing in my ears and it felt like the top half of my head kept trying to float away from the rest of me while I tried to suppress tears and think, just think, what do I do. He was very reassuring, said I did the right thing, and began to explain the process to me.

The social worker has her protocols to fulfill he said. She will do what she can to fulfill them, that's her job. On our side we still have the 4th amendment to the constitution, protecting us and our property from unlawful entry and seizure. Unless she can convince a lawyer to convince a judge to find probable cause and issue a warrant, we don't have to talk to her or let her in. We started gathering letters from friends and neighbors willing to testify to our competence and attention as parents. We started faxing them to her to fill her file on us.

The fact that we homeschool gives us and advantage here. You see, a social worker does not require a parents permission to enter a school and privately interview children without a parents knowledge or consent, or a preschool, or a daycare. We kept our kids close.

But here is the problem. Or here was the problem anyway. Something I have not yet told you all is that the Genius Husband at the start of this year began the application process for local law enforcement. He has passed all of the tests, written and physical, that he has done so far with flying colors. One week prior to this he had begun the background investigation process with two different departments. They won't proceed with a background check while there is an open CPS case pending on an applicant. If we follow our lawyers advice and tell the social worker to leave us alone, it looks bad on her report and that leaves a cloud of suspicion hanging over my husband's career. The case may never actually be closed, and he may never get through the background investigation. (Prior to this by the way he has a virtually spotless record, a few speeding tickets...late on taxes once or twice, but nothing major.)

So we swallow our indignation, our wounded pride, our fear that our carefully chosen and thought out parenting practises will be misinterpreted, such as co-sleeping, not vaccinating on schedule, letting our children dress themselves, even if they look silly and unkempt when they do, not to mention the way we discipline, and the fact that our 6 year old still wets the bed, which some people still mistakenly believe is a sign of psychological trauma. We swallow our desire to scream and leave the country with our children right now rather than let anyone, however well intentioned get their hands on them. We call and make an appointment with the social worker for an interview.

Here's the thing. They don't just go away once they realize that the call is unfounded. Oh no. They have a protocol to satisfy. In about 3 minutes we had dealt with the actual allegations. Are our children naked? No, but sometimes the Boy takes off his shirt when it's hot outside, don't all boys? Sometimes the baby only wears a diaper out front or I'll carry her in the sling in just a diaper when she's just woken up. She's a BABY. We live in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA where it's very rarely cold.

Do they go barefoot? Hell yeah. They were born in Canada. We live in a gated community and there is a great maintenance and landscaping staff and I've never seen glass lying around, the sidewalks are always swept clean, I deem it a safe place to go without shoes. I make them wear shoes when we leave the complex, but I don't fight the shoe battle every day. I have other battles to focus on, like kindness and character. And may I mention once more that it's Southern California and it's not cold. Maybe if you grew up in Mexico it is, but it isn't if you grew up with snow on the ground 6 months out of the year.

After we settled the fact that the call was unfounded they still want to look in our house, make sure there's enough food, ask us about discipline, domestic violence, etc. They aren't done until they've invaded every aspect of our privacy looking for signs of "abuse". We let them talk to our children, and ask them confusing and irrelevant questions. She didn't even have the right picture for asking boys if anyone has touched their privates. She royally botched that question and had the Boy backing away from her in confusion as he thought she was asking him to show her his penis. Real smooth.

In the end we went through that for nothing. The social worker told the GH's back ground investigator that she thought we were deceitful and misleading in response to some of her questions, when I was personally uncomfortable with the degree of honesty we were answering her with. The GH is usually honest to a fault, and was in this case as well. If our best efforts at being honest are so poorly received there is little we can do. His application is concluded at one place, and on hold in the other, mostly due to the social worker's report, and the discomfort it causes his background investigators. It is not likely that he will ever be able to pursue a career in law enforcement now. We are not willing to ever put ourselves through that kind of scrutiny again, and even if we do there is no guarantee that the result of a second go round would be any more favorable towards us, or his career.

This little bit on our families record also has implications for my future hopes of adopting and opening up our home for foster care.

We are reevaluating everything right now.

We are wondering if we need to move to avoid a second call.

I wonder if I should keep blogging, quasi-anonymously, in case they find this somehow.

We are reluctant to follow through with the appointment with the new pediatrician in case he interprets our vaccinations choices as medical neglect and calls CPS on us again which adds two calls to our record. Every call builds up and increases the risk of us losing our children. Especially calls from medical professionals.

Maybe the fact that there are so many children who aren't mine, who are truly unattended but at my house, made someone who is truly concerned think that they live here, and give my address regarding someone else's children?

It's possible that the casual observer wouldn't see me watching from in the house, especially when the sun is high and I'm standing in the shadows. Or wouldn't see me from where I stand to check the play ground. I would hope no one would use casual observation as grounds for a CPS hot line call, but I am learning otherwise.

The people in the leasing office tell us that as more families move in with small children the longer time residents are complaining more often about kids and noise. Maybe it was a crotchety old person. And they chose to pick on us because the kids are visible and we live so close to the play area.

I try hard to believe that whoever called had my children's best interests at heart. But I find it difficult. We had very warm weather for a few weeks, so why would someone wait to call about no shoes in cold weather until then? Why after more than two years of living here, parenting the same as we always have, would someone call now, one week into the GH's back ground investigation and effectively put an end to his career?

I am angry. I am sad. I am frustrated. I am tired of feeling suspicious towards my neighbors. I strongly doubt it was someone who actually knows us or has been around us.

One really great thing that has come out of this is the letters written for us by our friends and neighbors. I've cried a few times reading them they are so kind, and affirming, and supportive, and much appreciated, both in their willingness to get involved and because they counter act this crushing blow to my parental self esteem. Thank-you to everyone who was kind enough to write a letter. It's pretty embarrassing having to call people and ask if they'd be willing to testify to your fitness as a parent, and then have to explain why. But everyone responded with overwhelming support and commiseration.

And now, if you have followed all the way to the end would you all do something for me, and for yourselves as parents? As the government continues to be more involved in every stage of child rearing and continues to take more authority away from parents, there is a grass roots movement growing to introduce another amendment to the constitution that specifically protects the rights of parents, and keeps the power to make decisions in the best interests of our children in the hands of those who care about them most, their parents. And not in the hands of a bureaucrat or elected official that I didn't vote for setting policy for their education, health and moral instruction. The movement is simply called parentalrights.org

Please click over there, read what they have to say, and if you agree, sign the petition to protect parental rights as they exist right now, before they are taken away.

I can now tell you from experience that it is an absolutely awful feeling to have your parenting called into question by the authorities. Even when you are confident that you are not a bad parent.

Disclaimer-I realize that people who go into social work usually do it because they want to do some good for children. I realize that their system is in place to protect children who may be abused. I have little bad to say about the social worker we dealt with. She's just trying to do her job. She has to investigate every call. She was polite. I don't understand why she so strongly misunderstood us. But what fewer people realize is that it is a flawed system and that the right of parents are continuously challenged by it. CPS is not above the law, though they often believe they are.


You know you are a mom when...

Your response to an unexpectedly free Saturday after an extremely stressful week is to wrestle mount laundry into submission and take it captive. And I did, for a few wonderful hours ALL of the laundry in our house was clean. Even the stained and hand wash only items were dealt with.

You celebrate this victory by catching up on some sewing projects and get some outfits altered for the girls to wear to church tomorrow.

Your first thought at 4:30am when you hear the ominous sound of gagging from the tiny form in a nearby bed is, "Oh crap. More laundry."

This thought is followed by reaching out and catching vomit in your hands and guiding the puker toward the water proof bed pad. It is too late for the pillow and blankets anyway.

You then have sympathy for the tiny puker and set her up with a bowl and water and a blanket while you strip her bed, hand scrub the chunks from the bedding, and remake the bed for her to sleep in.

You hear the baby crying in your bed and lay next to her to help her back to sleep only to find your hip resting in a cold puddle of liquid.

You smell your hand to determine the nature of the puddle.

You pull a corner of the baby quilt you are both lying on down over the puddle of milk vomit and leave it at that until morning.

You think wistfully of the altered outfits and the plans for the day as you watch them go down in smoke as first one and then another of your children vomits, or has diarrhea, for the next 18 hours. (They were outfits brought back by friends and family from India, and we were going to go after church to the Lawn Party hosted by the house of India at the international houses at a very famous park downtown and enjoy the good food and entertainment. Sigh.)

You don't however let your husband talk you into taking them anyway. Even though you wish he was right. "They aren't running a fever they're just vomiting, they'll be fine soon." You talk him out of it by announcing that you just emptied vomit bowls twice while he was in the shower. He leaves with the Boy, who is not vomiting, for church, while you turn to the task of comforting the sobbing Girl who misses daddy and her brother the minute they walk out of the door. (They come home with balloons and popsicles.)

You manage, with the help of the GH to get all of the puke, poop and pee covered laundry clean before nightfall. Booyah! Take that laundry, I'm still on top and ready for round two.

You know your victories are small and you celebrate them where you can find them.

You don't however remake your bed. Instead you put down a very absorbent old quilt that is already stained and vow to wait until the pukers have puked their last before you'll actually put all that bedding back in place.

You fall asleep with one hand resting on a bed pan, ready to wake up and intercept bodily fluids at a moments notice. Can't let laundry get the upper hand.


A proud parenting moment

Actual conversation at the dinner table tonight.

I am too busy to make salad. I place a bowl of raw thin cut green cabbage on the table to supplement the warmed up chicken curry and rice from last night. It is completely unadorned.

Boy:MMM this cabbage tastes really good mommy, thanks for giving it to us.

Girl:Mommy, can I have more chicken?

Me: As soon as you eat your cabbage you can.

Girl: Okay, and then I can have more chicken!

Boy: May I have some more cabbage?

Me: Eat your meat and rice first.

Girl: Mommy I ate my cabbage, now I want some more chicken.

Me: Here you go.

Boy: I want some more cabbage now.

Me: It's all gone.

Boy: But you could cut me come more.

Me: I could; do you really want more?


Girl: Mommy I want some more cabbage too. Will you cut some more cabbage for me to eat?

Boy and Girl: Thanks Mommy for the cabbage.


Another parenting moment.

I hear the Girl making noise in the bedroom.

She is writhing in her bed whining. I pick her up and carry her out, to keep her from waking the others, and to soothe the nightmare away. I ask her if she has to go pee. She mumbles inarticulately. I sit her in my lap and stroke her hair.

Suddenly I feel a suspicious warm on my leg and hear the sound of liquid thudding into carpet. It goes on and on and on. Her bladder keeps emptying. I am trying to wake her. "Why are you peeing on me?" "Why didn't you tell me you had to go pee?" "Were you not awake?"

She blinks and teeters and gradually wakes up and starts to cry at the wetness all around her.

On the plus side, her bed is still dry, which is good because I'm out of clean pee pads.

And since we're talking about peeing at night, I heard the Baby crying a few nights ago and walked into the the bedroom to find the Boy, short off, running in crazy circles back and forth in his sleep. The shorts were a little wet and so I guided him to the bathroom. I think he was trying to wake up to go pee, but only his body was cooperating. I am so very glad the Baby was wakened because I hate to think where his sleep addled brain may have decided that the toilet was. Once it was the trash can in the bathroom. I've decided to call that progress. Because I am choosing optimism.


I have a story to tell you all. But it will have to wait a few more days to see how it ends.


I am like the last person in the blog world to have been tagged for the 7 weird things meme. I haven't forgotten Tamra, it's just been crazy busy around here. Stay posted.


15 months

Well, you are 15 months. I let 14 months go by unrecorded but there is so much these past few months that is changing and I feel that recording it before it's gone is so very urgent. I want to grab these fleeting moments and pin them down for a second or two.

Let's start with the most recent, and somewhat disturbing development. You can climb. You can get onto chairs and tables. You are monkey like in your agility. This is very very bad. I mean, it's cool, you can do stuff, but it's very bad, for you and the rest of us. Those benches near the table that you like to pull yourself up on and stand on while grabbing at everything on the table? Those aren't very stable. Those were mommy's first ever attempt at building benches, and they are about 2 inches too narrow at the base for the height. They wobble. Of course, I haven't built new ones because the wood for those ones was free, I've not got access to space an power tools right now, and well, have you seen the way you go non stop all day long? When exactly am I going to fit furniture building into the daily routine? But, the fact remains, those benches are tippy, and you are constantly in danger of falling off of them or pulling them down on top of you. STOP IT. YOU ARE GIVING ME A HEART ATTACK!

Also, that stuff? on top of the table? Yeah, that's our stuff. We put it there to keep it away from you. We're all mean like that. Every single member of your family likes to take things that you want and deliberately put them out of reach so that you can't get them. Once you stop tearing things to little itty bitty shreds, eating things you shouldn't, and gleefully flinging handfuls of important stuff over your head until every single things you can reach is on the floor instead of where it belongs, then we'll stop trying to hide it from you. In the meantime, this climbing thing means we're all running out of places to put it. Suddenly you are tall enough to grab your brother's pencil from where he left it resting near the table's edge, and then you immediately bite the eraser off. We are running out of pencils with erasers still intact.

Another recent development is the screaming, or rather the addition of several more decibels to your already impressive repertoire. Every time I start doing something in the kitchen you are convinced that I am holding out on you. You walk in and hold you hands up, while coyly and sweetly begging for food. When I don't give you what you think I ought to give you, which is quite often, you up the volume. When I still don't give you say, the raw bread dough, or the minced garlic, or the flour, or raw chicken, or whatever it is that you are so vigorously demanding, the volume goes up until the kitchen is flooded with screams. That's when my mommy switch kicks in and I don't actually hear you anymore. I stop registering the noise. You don't get it when you are screaming anyway. I always wait until you stop screaming and then show you the sign for food and please and wait until you try before giving you anything.

It's really adorable when you do do it by the way. Keep that up. You rub your chest first and then stick your finger on your lips while intoning, "ooh?" Please, food?

And the night waking is 0-60 in less than three seconds. There is waking, and then there is screaming bloody murder, and they happen about the same instant. We'll blame that on the new molars, but still, could you chill?

You love your shoes. You bring them to me, I"m often sitting on the toilet for some reason and you hold them up to show me, "oohss?"

You follow me around with them until I stop and put them on you feet. You like to start the morning with nothing but a diaper and shoes on your feet. I'm fascinated by the way you almost always find matching pairs.

You like pretty things, clothes and scarves and jewelry. I ask you which outfit you'd like to wear and you grab one or the other and hug it and carry it all over the house, showing it to daddy and your siblings until I help you get it on. You walk up to people and pull on your dress, sometimes pulling it over your head as if to say, "Do you see this dress I'm wearing? I picked it out? Isn't it a lovely shade of pink? And did you notice the sparkly flower on the front?"

You love to go outside. That's probably why you like shoes so much. You get all dressed and then go to the door and try to open it. You're all ready to go outside and play. There is much crying when I don't let you.

You love to "help" mommy. You take the freshly folded rags and kitchen towels from the kitchen cupboard and pile them on the living room floor. You like to take things from the dishwasher as I'm putting them in. You also like to hand me things to put away when I'm unloading. And you love to shut it, often, even though I need it to stay open and then clap your hands in a self satisfied way.

You also like to help in the bathroom. You are completely fascinated by toilet paper, and while you don't quite understand it's function, though I often see you taking tiny little pieces and rubbing them across your nose in a fair approximation of nose wiping, you are very eager to lend a hand. You tear tiny little pieces of toilet tissue off of the roll and try to hand them to me, or stuff them into the bowl between my legs if I happen to be sitting there. You beam the whole time, convinced that you are being very helpful. Often I can tell you have been in the bathroom alone because when we flip up the seat there a dozens of tiny wads of paper stuffed into the space between it and the rim.

You clap now. Probably because when you are actually helpful, like putting all of your blocks back into their little box, we clap and say, "Yay, you did it." So now every time you do something you are proud of, you look up at us and clap your little hands together. And every time I say good job you respond by clapping your hands. You've also started giving your siblings high fives, sort of.

And there is the singing. When you hear music, you sing along. Sometimes it sounds more like yelling, but your voice usually gets softer and you repeat the same tone over and over and hold it for long periods of time. You really like it if I sing along with you while you do this, especially if I harmonize.

You are no longer content to sit in your little seat in the kitchen while the rest of us sit at the table. You hate being so far away from the real action. We don't have a high chair that works at the table so you end up sitting on my lap and grabbing everything in sight and then putting it on my plate, at which point you try and force feed it to me. This is getting messy and I am now motivated to find a way to tie you down while allowing you to join us for dinner. Stay posted, there will be new developments on that real soon.

You love to wander and explore, but you are occasionally shy of strangers now, and down right terrified of other things. For some reason one weekend you decided that Beema's dogs were scary and you screamed every time one of them came near. They are good dogs, gentle with kids, if a little too enthusiastic at times and I can see how the sight of three of them, all taller than you and running to say hello might be scary at times, but you weren't afraid of them the week before, and you aren't afraid of them now, it was just those two weeks that had you so scared. Now you're back to chasing them, and the cats, and giggling.

When you are feeling timid though you grab my legs, right at the knee, and hide behind me while peeking your head out between my legs. Everyone thinks that this is absolutely adorable and sometimes I wonder if that's the real reason why you do it. You have started trying to move me around to better suit your desires. You grab my knee and drag my leg, if it's cooperating, into the kitchen so you can point at your water bottle. You push me toward the bed room when you are tired.

You have recently discovered your, how do I say this without getting the wrong kind of google hits, ah, er, um, girl parts? I had put you in the sink for a quick bath and I heard you giggling so I glanced down and saw two things at once, you finger wedged firmly between your legs and your face, your eyes wide with delighted surprise. You looked up at me, chuckling and with your customary wonder you seemed to ask, "Did you know about this? Did you know this was here?" And then I laughed too because you're just too darn funny. Hopefully you don't start sticking rocks in there like your sister did.

You love to join me in she shower. You now climb in the bathtub all by yourself and now it's a race to see if I can get you naked before you throw yourself under the running water. Once you are in the you sit yourself down on my feet, lean your face on my legs like they are your own personal massage table, wrap your little arms around my legs to keep from falling, and take a nap. Seriously, you fall asleep sitting on my feet. It makes many of the aspects of showering tricky, but you don't seem to mind if you get water in your face. You may shift around a bit and yell, but then you go back to sleep. One time you laid your little head down on my foot, and stretched your body out in the tub and took a nap. If I could figure out how to dry you off and get you diapered without waking you we good get you to sleep every night this way.

Last night you gave your dad a hug for the first time. You walked up to him and wrapped your arms around his neck and gave him a kiss. Technically that should go in your 16 month letter because this one is late, but I may forget, and he was so excited. By 16 months I'll be writing something about how you are now a toddler.

Everyday you seem to get more personality. It's really fascinating still to watch babies turn into people and their personalities emerge. It's especially fun for me to watch you, because I'm your mama, and I love you so.

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