Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hi My Name Is Michal and I'm Not Sure What My Sleep Number Is But I'm 'Bout to Find Out

Despite the fact that my husband I should be making no major purchases for like...ever. It became painfully obvious that we needed a new mattress. I'm not sure what the best indicator was; the fact that the one we were sleeping on was older than our daughter, that my hips would go painfully numb and cause me to toss and turn about 5,673 times a night, the lower back pain from the bad support that was leading into back spasms during the day, or the fact that once made during the day you could see huge, adult sized divots under the quilt. Any way you wanted to slice the pie, it was time to pony up for a new mattress.

We went "looking" one night. We decided to start at the Sleep Number store because it was close to where we were and I was interested in them as we know several people who have one and who rave about them. I laid on one of their beds for 15 seconds and knew in my black soul that I had to have one and that I would do just about anything to get one. So I lay there wondering to myself exactly how I was going to maneuver my husband into this huge purchase, not knowing that he was about .32 seconds ahead of me on the whole "Holy Shit I gotta get me one of these!" spectrum.

Today my Sleep Number Bed was delivered, and while there is some buyer's guilt, worry and remorse, all I have to do is stroll into my bedroom, lay down upon the wondrously amazing comfort that is my new bed and it all just floats away.

And now I have a whole new set of goals in life as illustrated by the above chart (click on it to enlarge). I might just have what it takes for this one. (cue the Rocky theme)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Liam's Super Power

As we were sitting around the dinner table the other night, conversation began to flow, as it usually does in this house, you know, because we are all talkers. This night the conversation turned to the fact that most of The Smokewood Gang would soon be in attendance. Grandma, Grandpa and Brevin are coming the very next day after Christmas and the two munchkins in this house could not be more excited. They have even decided, on their very own, to wait until they get here to open up all the presents.

Well, eventually we began talking of other visits we have had and we laughed over shared memories. Then the kids wanted to know, exactly how many times they could expect to be taken to Grandma's house for each year we lived in Florida...they were not happy with the answers they were given. Let us just say that Les and I could not be exact enough, nor could we offer any amount of visits in a year that would satisfy them (their need is great).

While Evelyn sat stewing and sighing, Liam became very serious and declared that he had something to tell me. I asked him what he had to tell me, bracing myself, because I honestly never know what is going to come flying out of his mouth next. He looks at me and says, "Every night when I am laying in bed, I try and I try to teleport myself to Grandma's house but no matter how hard I try it just hasn't worked yet."

And then I cried.

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Very Merry Cape Coral Christmas

                                                    MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Produced by: Michal Dillon
Directed by: Leslie Dillon
Leading Actors: Evelyn Dillon
                           Liam Dillon
                           Leslie Dillon
                           Michal Dillon
                           and maybe Billy Bones

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Decision: An Essay on The American Revolution by Evelyn Dillon

It was Christmas Eve 1776. George Washington's army was getting sick and some men din't have shoes! The army was about ready to leave for home in a few days. George needed a victory, so that hopefully most of the army would re-enlist for another six weeks. So far George Washington had lost more battles than he had won. He would attack, retreat, rest his men, feed them, and attack again.
Tonight, George W. planned to surprise attack Colonel Johanonn Gottlieb Rall's army in Trenton, Since it was Christmas Eve, the army would be celebrating. It was a very cold winter that year in 1776.

George Washington and his army stood at the edge of the Delaware River at Mc Konkey's Ferry. No one complained or said anything. Everyone knew the plan and was ready to fight for their country. First the soldiers would cross, then the horses, and finally the cannon. They would cross the Delaware River and cross down near Trenton. After everything landed on the other side, they would walk the rest of the way on foot.

When everything crossed safely and everyone was ready, they started their walk to Trenton, Time passed and so far the road was clear. Then, after some time had passed, George and his army came across a small cabin on one side of the road, ON the other side was a man chopping wood. George asked the man chopping wood, "Can you tell me where the Hessian picket is?" The man hesitated, but pointed over at the cabin.

George W. and his army can't let anyone warn Colonel Rall or this is over before it begins. So, George looks over at the cabin, and before he could give out a command, three men came out firing their muskets at George and his army. Soon George W. and his army were shooting at all the Hessians that were coming from everywhere, but Americans everywhere too. Within minutes George W. was getting reports on the battle. The battle was over within ninety minutes, George Washington had captured 868 Hessians, six cannons, a thousand muskets, forty gallons of rum and the musical instruments of Colonel Rall's band. Twenty-two Hessians were dead, ninety-eight were wounded and at least five hundred got away but it was a victory.

After the victory at Trenton, many more were to come and over 1,400 Americans re-enlisted for an additional six weeks.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Discussing the State of the World With My Daughter

Here she is, eleven years old and just now realizing that there is a world bigger than her family out there. What a hell of a time for her to figure that out. Its a big, bad world out there. I guess it always has been, but it seems like the world is especially big and scary these days.

She came to me this morning asking about why J.K. Rowling would have called Donald Trump worse than Voldemort. (sigh) In one way this was funny because she heard this on the radio and she only has this vague idea of who Trump is but she knows clearly who Rowling is and the idea that J.K.  could have such a virulent opinion on a real human being caught her interest and all of the sudden, Ev just had to know what was happening in the world.

If you are reading this and you know me at all, you know that my parenting style is head on, I don't mince words and I don't treat my kids like they are anything but the smallish humans that they are. I give them age appropriate information and let them make up their own minds. I find it important not to force my own idea or opinions on them when it comes to religion or politics.

I began to tell her some of the reasons J.K. may have said that about Trump, I won't get into those reasons here, I think we all know them. Then, I also thought it was important to put that all into the background of current events and give her a broad view of why Trump was saying the things he was saying. We talked about the Paris bombings. The recent shooting in San Bernadino. Why people ar fleeing their home countries in the first place. I talked with her about how its very easy to understand how people can make decisions and have ideas based on fear and that sometimes those ideas can come from trying to protect those you love. We talked about the founding tenants of this country and what she thought about those, how freedom, freedom of religion and equality related to the issues that are relevant to the news today. We drew some comparisons in things being said in the media right now by candidates to things that have happened in history, ugly things. This was a hard talk. Not a talk you really want to have with your bright eyed, giggly, sweet faced daughter who just wants to see the best in everything.

I am happy to report that she emerged from the other side of the conversation seemingly unsinged. Just a little bit wiser and basically unchanged.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Christmas is Coming?

If you have been following along, we are in southwest Florida now and this is our first winter down here. Inside of one week of being down here I realized that I loved it and I might not ever want to leave. Then the cooler months started and know I know, for sure that I want to stay. All of my family and friends up north are freezing their butts off and I'm down here in shorts and tank tops, swimming in December and enjoying the hell out of it.
Les and I do quite a bit of teasing to those folks back home because well, we're assholes and its one of the few pleasures life affords us. Also they would all be doing the same thing to us if they had half a chance. That's why there are lots of FB pics of us swimming still and pics of Les on his lap top in shorts on the boat tease them all but also because its all just so weird to us. 
Les just took that picture this past weekend, after we sat in a gym competition listening to Christmas music playing. We walked out into 80 degree humid air with tropical flowers blooming. So weird. The kids keep asking about the Christmas tree and the decorations and each time it catches me off guard because its and there are palm trees and we are swimming and beach going...
So I guess we will put up a tree and try to get in the spirit of things but our Christmas will be all green and humid and tropical this year and other than the odd sensation of my Christmas never being that way before- I'm positively a-ok with it because I am not freezing my ass off and shoveling a shit ton of snow!!!! My gawd I love Florida.

Monday, December 7, 2015

This Marriage and Chronic Illness

                         I talk openly about the fact that I suffer from a couple of chronic illnesses. I talk openly about how those illnesses affect me, probably too much, I don't know. One thing I think I don't give much voice to, is how those chronic illnesses have affected my marriage, or how when one half of a long term relationship gets struck down by an illness that changes them in a profound way, how the dynamic in the relationship can change and how then, the real struggle for survival can begin.  
                         Leslie and I were married for about eighteen or nineteen years, chugging along just fine and minding our own business when I was struck by my migraines and my thyroid decided to stop functioning. We lived in New Jersey at the time, all on our own, far from any real support system and when I got sick, even though my Mom came to care for me for a several visits, for the most part, Les was left to deal with everything pretty much all on his own. I was very sick. I needed hospitalizations for the month long Status Migrainosis that was attacking my body, I needed HEAVY psych drugs to flood my system to help bust out that headache. Drugs that made me a shambling mound of a human, drugs that completely shut down my personality and took away every ounce of energy I had. On top of that, I was dealing with the fact that my thyroid was malfunctioning and I wasn't getting enough medication for that. This was just the tip of the ice berg.
                       It is now four years later and we are just beginning to emerge from the worst of the hell that has been these illnesses that have eaten away at our lives. I am still on meds that affect my personality. I am still dealing with sub-par energy levels thanks to the Hashimoto's. I have migraines on a daily basis. I go for Botox treatments every three months. Things are much better though. I am almost myself for most of the time. I have returned from the edge.Though there are more bad days than I care to think about.
                        Through it all, my husband has stood by my side. He has cared for the kids, helped with dinners, made hundreds of trips to the grocery store, he has held me while I cried, he has made hundreds of pharmacy runs...just... so much stuff you can't even imagine, we have even managed to homeschool the kids through this but mostly because of the strength and dedication of my husband. Most of all though? He has shown a love and a spirit of grace and patience towards a chronically ill partner that is rare to see. 
You can't possibly know when you marry someone at the age of twenty, what will come down the road to meet you in the dark. You can't know the monsters that might be waiting for you. You can only hope that your love and friendship will get you through the years to come. I am a very lucky woman, my husband is kind and considerate, patient, funny, and dedicated. He has loved me through these long years of sickness. He has loved me on my worst days. I guess I'll keep him around for another few years or so.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

End of the Season

          The competition season for gymnastics has come and gone. We have all done our part. Ev has practiced and worked hard and done her best. Les and I have opened up our wallets. Liam has sat patiently at the various meets and practices.
          Saturday was the Florida State Championships for USAGC Levels 4&5. Ev had 2 competitions this season and qualified! So yeah... we went. Her group started at 8 am, so thankfully the comp took place in Fort Myers, only a 22 minute drive away. She competed well, had fun and ended her season on a high note with her best All Around score of the season (33.175)and brought home a trophy for ninth in her age group. I know, I know, I say it all of the time but, I am truly very proud of her and all of her hard work. She has fun and really enjoys what she does. I was especially proud yesterday when her coach told me that Ev was such a great representative for their gym.
          I made up a little video of her best performances this year, take a look if you want.
                                                                    Gymnastics 2015

Saturday, December 5, 2015

On Being Big, Bold and Beautiful

                This is a recent picture of me, it's a pretty good representation of how I look right now at my current weight. My current weight, I will admit, is not really ideal. When I step on a scale, the numbers that roll around and pop up are not ones that I particularly wish would happen...however, I suffer from PCOS, Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism and Chronic Migraines. The first two conditions keep my hormones out of whack and that last one keeps me on maintenance meds that mess with your weight (gain weight-not loose weight -no, dear God, never loose weight). These are all things I try to keep in mind when I look in the mirror, or when the self dis-like or hate start to creep in. 
                I had to go to the doctor on Friday, the OB/GYN. It was a visit to establish care, set up new birth control pills for hormonal control of the PCOS and a few other issues. The visit was going well, and I was really liking the Doctor and her thoroughness, until, that is, she decided, to bring over the little diagram of "the plate", you know, the modern version of the food pyramid, and start telling me about how I should be making my dinner plate look, about how, I should be using more control since I just moved down here and remember that I wasn't on vacation all of the time so I should stay out of the restaurants that are on every corner, how I should really consider looking at ....... she really didn't get much farther.
           I understand that, as a medical professional people feel that they have a job to do and discussing "obesity" with at risk patients is one of them. Fine. However you just spent about 40 minutes with me going over my medical history and I think it should have been apparent I have about 12,000 legit reasons I might be overweight, especially that one time at band camp when I told you I had been under-medicated with my thyroid for at least three years (probably) and I was just now on a dosage that seemed to be helping my body. I spoke up for myself, right then and there. I refused to let her make me feel bad about being overweight. I refused to walk out of that room thinking that it was my eating that put me in this position. Do I eat like a health nut? No. But I don't eat a complete slob either. I eat sane foods at sane portions and I know about "the plate" thank you very much. I try as hard as I can to be comfortable in this flawed body and I do not need the help of random medical people beating me down, so I just wouldn't allow it. Not conversationally, not in my head. 
                  I can't afford to feel bad about who I am anymore. I have a daughter and she needs to see that I like who I am so that as she moves forward with her life, she can like who she is. Plus, I don't want to walk around not liking myself anymore, it's no fun and if you don't like yourself, no one else will like you either. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Boy That Ate the World

This is a picture of Liam, when he was known only Ao Zhuang and he had no family to call his own. He looks pretty good in this picture, some chub on the cheeks, a little hair on his head...but this picture was taken right before he went to surgery for his cleft lip repair. As his mother, I have been able to put a few things from his story together and all I will say here is that he had to have intensive care from an American non-profit foundation called Love Without Boundaries to help him gain the weight necessary to meet the safety requirements for surgery.  And then things get crazy for this little guy...healing homes and foster care and back to the orphanage to wait for months for some strangers to come pick him up....not an easy start on life, not by any stretch of the imagination. But he came home with us and we all did the work and we started to see this wonderful boy emerge from the trauma and the wreckage of his beginnings.

He just fought and fought and worked hard. And believe me, he had to work hard. He was cleft affected with an open palate that affected his speech, he was adopted at a time where the brain looses its first language before it begins to acquire the new language, he had no idea how to do anything but survive in an orphanage and now he was expected to fit into a family, he had to undergo surgeries...even though he now had a family, still life was tougher on this kid at that young age than most people ever have to face and we were seeing this great kid emerge and thanking our lucky stars that he was our son.
And time passed...we have faced may things together as a family since Liam has been with us. All of the regular, garden variety stuff that families face but also all of the stuff adoptive families take on; questions about birth families, bad dreams, feelings of abandonment, stress and anxiety that link directly back to the loss of your first family, issues of being a post-institutionalized child...but most of these things were about emotions linked to abandonment and birth families. Little did I know he was struggling with something else, something just as elemental and fundamental to the human spirit, something that post-institutionalized children deal with but I thought Liam was unaffected by because's the deal:
I knew as an adoptive Mom going in, adopting an older child (Liam was 22 months old when we met him), that one trigger issue might be food, and it was initially. We would have to watch this kid like a hawk or he would cram so much food into his mouth, that he would choke himself because with a 4th degree cleft palate he could get LOTS of food in there- like lots. I had to out him on an infant regime of being fed, every two hours or so- I still had him on a bottle, with snacks. I also fed him first, before anyone in the house, so he would see that he was going to get his share. I let him sit near me in the kitchen while I was cooking or on the counter so he could be around food more. I would give him little baggies of small snacky things to carry. My plan worked and gradually his food anxieties left and he stopped cramming food into his mouth and stopped inhaling his meals and stopped trying to fight Ev for food. And eventually he became relaxed about food and a really good eater like Ev, he will eat what he needs and pass up on things, even say,  "No thank you" to dessert if he is full, he will just stop eating anything if he thinks he has had enough, he can tell you what healthy foods are versus junk foods and prefers the healthy stuff. 
 The other night at the dinner table when Liam asked me how much a human could eat at one time and I answered him with a technical answer that he didn't like and he got serious, alarm bells started going off in my head. (klang! klang! klang!) I asked him why he asked me that and with his answer I fell into a rabbit hole of heartbreak. He said that sometimes he thinks about eating up the whole world, all of the food in it, all of the trees, all of the cars, all of the houses, drinking up everything but then leaving just one slice of cheese to eat later. I asked him if he knew why he thought about this. His answer was sure and immediate, he told me that he has dreams of being hungry, "hungry, mama, very hungry and thirsty and not being able to find food or drinks and no one helping me" These are the moments my friends when I would almost trade being an adoptive parent with anyone, because to sit there and realize fully the pain and trauma your children have that you are almost incapable of healing for them is absolutely unbearable. I inhaled deeply and tried, the best I could to gently help Liam face, head on, the reasons why he was having these dreams, why he was feeling this way and to reassure him that he would never, ever again in his life have a hungry day-not as long as I was his Mama (and how long am I going to be your Mama? -forever! he shouts in response). This too, is hard, to take their past and put it into words, to SAY that facts right into their sweet faces, the faces that make up your whole world. But I know no other way. Truth, communication, love, togetherness-these are the things I hope will be the things my children need from me to make a bridge from that past through this loving now to a bright and blinding future.
*Liam knows that I was going to write about this, I talked about it with him and he gave me his permission. He thinks its ok for people to read this because he knows that we have lots of adoptive friends and he thinks this might help someone.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Writing Challenge

My friend Nicole put me onto this blog writing challenge for the rest of the year and I thought it might be a nice way to finish out 2015 and a good way to kick-start the old blogging juices. It's pretty simple, the challenge is to just blog once a day for each day in December. The point is not to stress about it, not to beat yourself up if you miss a day, just do your best and blog as much as you can.

The above is a link that you can go to, to check out some of the other blogs that are participating in the challenge. And I'm off.....

Saturday, November 28, 2015

So There's This Thing Called Facebook

     I have recently started this blogging thing again and I have quickly realized why I ever started it in the first place. I just like to have a place to out my thoughts down and maybe put in a picture or two and blogging was a way to do that and also let my family that lived a few states away keep in touch. Then Facebook came along and I started doing that, so blogging felt a bit redundant at times, so I slowly moved away from it. Now I'm back bitches!!!!
     Some of that is because on here I tend to behave myself a bit more, I am consciously aware that this space is more for my entire family unit and our memories and I won't be as prone to put political stuff on here, but it's mostly because I like having a bit more space to talk about the subject I'm blathering on about and a bit more time to use for adding pictures and maybe some video.
In the recent past that old FB has given me grief. I do tend to be opinionated and I just can't seem to stop putting things on my wall about my political views or issues that get my blood boiling, no matter how many times I promise myself I will keep things light and about me and my family. Then, I go ahead and post something and invariably someone forgets the number one FB rule, "If you don't like it, you just don't leave a comment" and I just sort of black out and either start defending myself (which leads to HUGE issues) or I just start un-friending people. Listen, I started the whole un-friending after a huge personal issue came up over FB and a political view got way out of hand so now, I just tell myself, "If this person and I are that diametrically opposed and they can't keep their fingers off of their keyboard, then they don't need to be looking in on my life."
     On the positive side of FB, I have 133 friends on there that I have contact with. They make me laugh, wish me well when I am sick, wish me Happy Birthday, watch my children grow, laugh at my stupid jokes, tolerate my political crap, listen to me rant about animal cruelty, put up with my extreme geekery, love me despite my back yard water feature, support me in dark times. Some of my FB friends are real life friends, some are family and some are just people I met online and never met in real life but whom I have been online with now for so long, that I would just walk right up and hug and start chatting away with (you know who you are).
     I'm going to keep doing both, blogging and Facebooking. You will more than likely get an overlap of pictures, because my kids are old and sodded and will only allow me to take so many anymore (the ingrates). Read along if you want. I'll just be here doing my thing, because it makes me happy. You know, like a room without a roof.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Liam and His Kung-Fu

When we moved here, we realized it was time to start Liam in a year round activity. For awhile he wavered between martial arts and gymnastics but, eventually his love of fighting and whooping ass took over and he chose Kung-Fu. I wasn't sure, at first, how it was going to go, he is Liam after all. A bit clumsy, a little goofy, sometimes a bit difficult to focus...but, to my surprise he is thriving! He loves it.
He goes into class, behaves himself, focuses and really enjoys the things he is learning there. He too works hard at his chosen craft. In October, he tested for, and passed for his yellow stripe on his belt. That was quite a moment for him, his first big solo achievement in life. He had worked hard for it, practicing kicks and blocks every night, making sure he knew his bow and the stretch routine. You know that is all very hard work and dedication for a little guy but he did it and he was happy about it.
Sometimes his Si-fu Mr. Yes even tells me that he uses Liam as an example to the other boys as to how they should be behaving in class! He goes three nights a week and he is always happy to go. I am also happy about the fact that he has made a gaggle of friends that he calls his "peeps" and they all get along and seem to help each other out and have fun in class and after.

Monday, November 23, 2015


We moved to Florida 6 months ago and in that time, my little gymnast has had to work hard. You see, there was a gap in her training due to the move and that is hard for a gymnast anyway. Then when we started at her gym, we learned that they did not have the program she was used to being in, in New Jersey, that she would have to train and compete in the USAGC branch. USAGC, for those of you who don't know, just really means that the judging is more picky, that every little wobble or bounce gets a deduction, every little turn of the foot they don't like gets a deduction, if your hands aren't held right they give you a deduction...It also means that there is no longer the luxury of picking your own music for floor routines, or designing your own floor routine-everyone does the same thing. It's tougher all around. Also, she just had to catch up on skills.
Well, she has worked and worked and worked. She has listened to her coaches, she has tried and failed and tried again. She has made us proud by managing to work so hard but still have fun and keep loving her sport. She comes home after every practice completely worn out but smiling and laughing and telling us stories of her gym mates and tales of her training. She leaves that gym exhausted and sweaty, smiling and ready to get back in there the next practice. The thing I love most? When she goes to a competition, even if she falls on the beam, or she doesn't get her squat on, she says, "That was a great competition! I had fun. Thanks for letting me go." Every time.
I still remember taking her to her very first gym practice, she was three years old, a very shy and still chubby little thing that refused to go out onto the mats unless I went with her. She would reluctantly go through the motions for the first few times but soon enough, she started to really just want to get there and get out on the mats and start jumping and tumbling. She never looked back. I can't tell you how many less we have gone through but I can tell you this, I hope we have hundreds more because she loves this and even if she never makes it to the Olympics, it has been good for her spirit and it has made her strong in her body and her mind. I have to give credit to gymnastics for helping my little daughter go from being a tiny, weak baby to the strong muscled young lady with an 8 pack that can haul in more groceries than I can.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Yesterday Was National Adoption Day

The Saturday before Thanksgiving every year is known as National Adoption Day. If you are an adoptive family, like mine, this is something you just kind of know. If you are an adoptive Mom, similar to me, this day can fill you with mixed feelings. Those mixed feelings stem from the fact that most people take this day and use it as a big advertisement for Adoption, almost as if to say, "Hey! Look, this is what everyone with a beating heart in their chest SHOULD be doing." I am here to say though, that adoption is not something that everyone should be doing.
Adoption is something that you should do only if you have considered it carefully and purposefully. Because, you see, the end result of adoption is having a child, and being that child's parent forever, no matter what, and that is quite a big deal. The biggest deal of all, as far as I'm concerned.
Adoption is rough. Adoption is messy. Adoption takes time, lots and lots of time. Adoption is expensive. Adoption has issues with bonding, both child to parent, and parent to child. Adoption is amazing. Adoption is life changing. Adoption is life. Adoption is love. Adoption is the miracle in my life that gave me the two greatest kids on the planet. In short, adoption is just like making a family in any other way, messy and full of growth and love for everyone involved and you, nor I would have it any other way.
Even though I feel this way about adoption and being a parent, I do not feel that adoption should be advertised and pushed off on everyone on Adoption Day. And I have an even greater problem with Orphan Sunday. I feel that a greater purpose would be served if we could just show adoptive families as we are.

Families just like everyone else, just with a different start. Let's just let people know that if biology isn't working, there is something else out there that can work for them. And at the end of the adoption road there is love eternal. That is what National Adoption Day means to me.