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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Death Certificate

My dad died on June 20, 2000. In March of that same year, we had the break-in incident. It was an emotional few months, to say the least.

When he passed away, I was crushed. I felt partially responsible since I had been the one to put him on a plane a few months before, sending him to live with his sister near Los Angeles. The story of my dad is too long to write in a short blog post, but suffice it to say he was a mentally unstable schizophrenic. He and my mom divorced when I was a sophomore in high school, and as sad as it sounds, I rejoiced when we were freed from him.

But after high school, I started to realize that his abuse was more related to his mental instability than his desire to make our lives a living hell. And I started to feel compassion for him.

Shortly before I put him on that plane, he was picked up by County Mental Health for knocking on people's doors and saying he was Jesus. When he was discharged (after finally getting an official Schizophrenia diagnosis), I was newly married and emotionally immature. There was no way he could live with us. I was having enough issues adjusting to life as a married woman (which is another post soon to come). So, I sent him down to stay with his sister until further notice.

After a few months at his sister's, he left a note saying it was his "time to go," and he disappeared.

I would lay awake at night wondering where he was. Did he have food? Did he have shelter? What about a toothbrush (I must admit I inherited his propensity toward clean teeth)? Did he have his glasses? My heart hurt with thoughts of him wandering around Los Angeles, homeless.

And then, months later, the call. My dear aunt (who had taken in my father despite the incredible inconvenience) called to tell me my dad had died. He was waiting at a bus stop, with a black trash bag full of all his earthly belongings, and collapsed. We soon discovered he had a brain aneurysm that took his life quickly and painlessly.

After the initial shock and despair, I was actually relieved. Not for myself, but for him. He hated being on this earth. He hated pretty much everything about it. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders, knowing he was no longer suffering.

I recently sent off for a copy of his death certificate. A few days ago, it came in the mail.

It felt bizarre to read.

Age: 58
Date of death: 06/20/2000
Time of death: 1125
Immediate cause: Probable ruptured cerebral artery aneurysm
Time interval between onset and death: Rapid

I don't know why, but it stirred up a lot of feelings. Fifty-eight. So young. My mom is almost in-laws are both 59. I can't imagine losing any of them so suddenly. Yet, it happens all the time. It made me remember that our lives are so fragile. My kids, my friends, my family...we are all here temporarily. We can be gone in an instant.

But, I am also comforted by the fact that this isn't it. There is hope in knowing there is so much more to come.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Easter Fun

So far Easter break has been splendid. The weather was pretty much picture perfect this weekend...unfortunately, we're in for a week full of rain, but that's all right.

We made some egg-shaped, chocolate-covered Rice Krispy Treats...

And this afternoon, we had an egg hunt. Each kid has his/her own egg color, so it makes it fair. No arguing over who has more eggs! And no fighting over who "saw it first."

We've trained our chickens well...they lay eggs filled with candy!

Looking forward to pulling out the Resurrection Eggs this week!

Such an extraordinary day coming up next Sunday. Can't wait to experience it with the kids. And looking forward to reading about all of your Easter traditions!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Faithfulness in the Storm

During cabin time at the women's retreat this weekend, we were asked to share a story of God's faithfulness. I shared the story below, since that day just happened to be the 9-year anniversary of what happened. I hadn't planned on printing it here since many of you already know about it, but a friend, a blog reader of mine, requested that I put it here since it truly is an incredible story of God's faithfulness:

Ever since I was little, the song "How Great Thou Art" has played in my head. It was like a CD set on "repeat." It was just one of those songs that always popped into my mind...waiting for the school bus, falling asleep at night, sitting on the toilet...

It was about nine o'clock on a cool March night. I was home with my black lab, Reagan, and Superman was gone working at Safeway. He would not be home until one o'clock a.m. I took out my contact lenses and put on my glasses (I was nearly blind without them), and gave my eyes a good rub. Ah. There's nothing like rubbing your eyes after wearing contacts all day. Yawning, I lifted the covers, snuggled into bed and took the Bible off my nightstand. By the time I was done reading, the sheets had warmed up and I let the soft coziness envelop me as I slid down into the covers. Reagan settled down on the floor next to me. I patted her head, told her she was a good girl, closed my eyes and fell asleep.

Not more than an hour later, Reagan started growling. Great, I thought. What now? I rolled over onto my back and looked toward the hallway where the kitchen light that I'd left on shone behind the figure of a man. Oh, Superman is home already, I thought. Reagan barked. Suddenly, I had a bad feeling. Reagan never barked at Superman. I reached over to get my glasses, but before I could reach them, the stranger grabbed my arm and yanked me out of the bed. I think I let out a yelp, but if I did, it wasn't much.

The man, who I still couldn't see clearly, started to drag me by my feet down the hallway toward the kitchen. My shirt rode up my back as I slid across the carpet. I kicked and yelled, while poor Reagan was so confused, all she could do was run around in circles and bark. I could see that the man had on a black mask, black gloves, a long-sleeved black shirt, black jeans and black boots. His eyes peered through his mask. What color were they? I squinted, but I just couldn't tell. He was so strong. My ankles stung from trying to twist them out of his grip.

We reached the kitchen. Without hesitation, the intruder straddled me on the floor and with his left hand grabbed a butcher knife from our knife holder. I immediately stopped making noise and trying to get away. Oh, Lord, I thought. He's going to kill me. I thought about Superman coming home to find me dead on the kitchen floor. My lower back was pushed into the linoleum, and I felt a pinch of pain from the awkward position. I frantically tried to think of anything I could do. Then I felt the first slice. It was on my left arm. I could hear the fabric of my shirt tearing. My mouth was so dry, my lips felt glued together. I was crying uncontrollably. Another cut. This time on my stomach. Then my leg. But wait. He wasn't cutting very deep. He's not going to kill me, I thought. Oh, God, he's going to rape me. I tried to prepare myself mentally to be violated in one of the worst ways possible. What would I do? How would I react? How would my husband react?

All of a sudden, a song came into my mind. Oh, thank you, Lord, I said to myself. I belted out loud, "Oh Lord, my God...when I in awesome wonder..." It stopped. The cutting stopped. The man sat on top of me, stunned, and dropped the knife. He ran out the laundry room door. As soon as he was out of sight, I ran next door. Reagan ran behind me. My neighbor, Rick, answered the door. "Shanti! Are you all right? What happened? What happened?" I must have looked like a tornado hit me. I was so hysterical, I could hardly vocalize what had happened: "A-A-A man---he-he-came--{Superman} isn't h-h-home..." Rick, a correctional officer, brought me inside where his wife, Preet, ran to my aid. "That f---king bastard!" Rick yelled. He got his gun and went to our house to look for the intruder.

Preet called 911. She told the operator that an intruder had been in my house. The operator asked to speak to me. I didn't want to speak to anyone. I just wanted to be in Superman's arms, safe in his arms and away from the situation. But, I spoke to her anyway. "Are you OK, ma'am? Did the intruder hurt you?"she asked. Did he hurt me? Well, my physical wounds were superficial. But emotionally, I didn't feel too swell. "No, I'm okay," I replied. "Ma'am, the police are on their way. You'll hear a helicopter in a few minutes. Do you need an ambulance?" "No," I replied. Wow. A helicopter. We lived in a new neighborhood, where there really wasn't much of anything except corn fields and a few new subdivisions. I figured the helicopter was coming to search the fields. I just wanted Superman. I hung up on the 911 operator and asked Preet to call him at work. I was still too shaken up to talk to him.

Within ten minutes, the police showed up. I still couldn't see. I asked if somebody could please get my glasses for me. I didn't want to go back into my house. The police started asking me questions: What did he look like? I didn't know. As I said, I'm practically blind without my glasses. I asked again if somebody could please get them for me. "They're on my nightstand," I said. "Is there anyone you know who might do this to you?" they asked, "Did he have a distinct smell? Did he say anything? Were there any tattoos that you could see? How do you think he got in?" Too many questions, I thought. Can't I just have a few minutes to gather myself? And why wouldn't anyone get my glasses?

Superman arrived. I felt so relieved. I had felt so alone, even though I was surrounded by a dozen people. He held me in his arms, just what I needed. Someone brought me my glasses.

"Ma'am? We're going to have to take some pictures now," one of the officers said. I felt like I was in a movie. There I was, my favorite pair of flannel pajama bottoms sliced up, my new shirt from a race I'd run in the week before destroyed, and my face stained with tears. The last thing I wanted was to have my picture taken. But I stood there, and stared blankly at the camera each time it flashed.

I felt like an idiot. I couldn't answer any of their questions. The only thing I knew was that the intruder was around six feet tall and had a muscular build. I had locked the front door, but had left the door from the garage into the laundry room unlocked. Stupid. He must have picked the lock into the garage and then just walked right in. Everyone felt so safe in our neighborhood. I shouldn't have been so naive. I should have found a way to hit him in the groin. There were a lot of "I should haves" running through my mind.

The police said they needed my clothes and were going to take the knife to check for fingerprints. One of them gave us his card and said to call him if I thought of anything. They left, and Superman and I headed back to our house. There was black fingerprint dust all around from the police checking for fingerprints.

Since Superman was home, I felt much better. But my house felt different. It didn't feel like the safe, comfortable home that I had always thought it was. It felt cold. I wondered why this had happened. I believe everything happens for a reason, so I was curious. What was the purpose of this? Maybe by my singing a traditional Christian hymn, the intruder would turn his life around. Not likely, but possible. Maybe he just thought I was nuts, so he took off. Maybe I just needed a kick in the pants. Maybe since Superman worked at a job where he was unhappy and just couldn't leave, he needed a valid reason to go. (And he did.) There are many reasons why this could have happened, and why I got out of it completely safe and relatively unharmed. All I know for sure is that the Lord proved His faithfulness that day. That song, that wonderful song, that had played in my mind over and over, had been there for a reason. After that day, the song disappeared. Don't get me wrong--I still love that hymn. As a matter of fact, I start crying every time I hear it. But, apparently, there's no longer a purpose for it.

I am so thankful to the Lord for protecting me that night. He was with me. He will never forsake me. And He IS with me 'till the end of the days!

Monday, March 22, 2010


I looked up the definition of "retreat" online. One of Webster's definitions says: "A period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director."

That's just what it was. I withdrew from my life for a few days. It was peaceful, relaxing, and more than a little refreshing.

I always underestimate the power of a break from the norm. I do look forward to respite when it approaches, but I seem to always forget just how much I need those pauses in my bustling life.

I laid on a wooden dock in the warm sun over a lake. No children came to ask me questions, or tattle, or request food from my 24-hour restaurant. I didn't have to worry about breakfast, lunch or dinner (or snacks). Someone else worried about it for me.

I ate ice cream mixed with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. And it was divine.

I sat outside during a mandatory time of silence throughout the camp and wrote a letter to the Lord. Not one of the 300 women present spoke. Each person was nestled in her own little spot of tranquility while she paused to just sit. How often do we do that? I don't think I can remember the last time I sat. Quietly.

I admired God's beauty, and marveled at the quaint little place I was in.

I enjoyed all my meals with grown ups (and a sister-in-law I have never before had the privilege of spending an extended period of time with), without having to continually get up to serve other people.

And, most importantly, I learned a few things:

1. I want to learn a new skill each year.
2. I am going to attempt to find gratitude in even the most unappealing circumstances.
3. I'm not invincible. I need breaks!

The speaker was incredible. Real, vulnerable, insightful and funny. My cheeks hurt from laughing at the end of each session.

Ah, retreat.

It's back to real life today, but that's ok. I love my job. I'm thankful for the 24-hour restaurant I operate and for my roles as a mediator, dental hygienist, teacher and maid. It's where I'm at right now, and I'm going to enjoy it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, It's Off to Retreat I Go!

I'm off in 2 hours for a women's retreat up in the foothills! Can't wait, can't wait. Two whole days with no kids! I do love my kids, but boy, is it gonna be nice to have a break! See ya on the flip side!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Adventures in Leprechaun Land...

Last night we left the Leprechaun some green milk in hopes that he wouldn't cause too much mischief around our house. It seems to have worked. Well, except for the fact that the Leprechaun went Number One in our toilet and didn't flush!

We made some green pancakes this morning to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

After school, we discovered a note from the Leprechaun! Seems he felt badly for forgetting to flush his goods down the toilet...

Quick! We've gotta find the treasure!

We found the four-leaf clover!

And buried under the clover was...Chuck-E-Cheese tokens and tickets! I think the Leprechaun may have stolen those off my bookshelf since the ones I had are now missing...but don't tell the kids.

Checking out all their loot...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Full Confession...The Crushing of Childhood Fantasies

Some of you may remember when I told Mr. C that the "Advent Angel" was just a fabricated person.

The other day he asked me if Santa is real. So far, I've been able to dodge the question saying things like, "If you believe in him, than he's real to you" and, "St. Nicholas was a real person...". But I felt it was time. And Superman and I decided that if we were going to let him know about Santa, we may as well dash his dreams of the Easter Bunny, Leprechauns, and the Treasure Troll,* too.

*The Treasure Troll is another fictional character I created years back. When we go on trail walks or hikes, this "Treasure Troll" puts an "X" somewhere along our route. If we find the "X," he will leave something back at the car for the kids. Sometimes it's some little 5-cent trinket...other times it's root beer. He doesn't always show up...just when he has time. It's a fun little tradition that makes our family hikes even more exciting.

Anyhoo, after a long conversation about how mommy and daddy are Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Treasure Troll, and the Leprechaun (who always leaves green dust behind as evidence of his visit on St. Patrick's Day), I think I actually let out a sigh of relief. It felt good to come clean with him. We told him not to spoil the fun for the other kids. So far, he's kept good on his word about the Advent Angel. I think it's our new policy that when our kids start asking if someone is real, we'll just lay it out plain and simple for them.

I'm a little sad that Mr. C's time of enjoying all these fictional people has come to a close. but I guess I still have four other kids I can have fun with. And, Mr. C is now my official helper for make-believe adventures.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'm Gonna Be A Hot Mama!

Well, not me. I guess you could say I'm a hot mama (thank you very much!), but this post isn't about me.

The other day during our devotions, we asked the kids what they would like to be when they grow up.

Mr. C: A policeman or a math teacher (ah, the pitter-patter of a daddy's heart when a son wants to follow in his footsteps. The math teacher part, not the policeman part.)
J-Man: A guitar player at church (can you hear my heart screaming with joy at the thought of that?? Boy, I would be one proud mama...)
M-Dog: A fireman. Luckily, he hasn't started any obsessions with fire just yet...
N: A hot mama! (well, well, well...I told her it shouldn't be hard for her to achieve since she's already beautiful, and I think she'd make a wonderful mama!)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I haven't forgotten about my little blog...

We've had a stomach bug going around our house. Four of us have been hit. It seemed to be a 24-hour thing, but poor M-Dog is on day 3 of it, and can't keep anything down. I'll be back when everyone's better!

Monday, March 8, 2010


Well, it's been about six weeks of homeschooling.

The kids are thriving, and so am I.

Mr. C is flying through the curriculum and doing great.

J-Man is nothing short of amazing. These last few weeks have made a world of difference for him. When he was in school, he got in trouble nearly every day. It wasn't like he was doing awful things, but he was definitely one of the more immature kids in his class. I think his teacher was relieved to have him go. I was the most worried about how I would "handle" teaching J-Man...whether I would have the patience to deal with him all. day. long. But he has been wonderful. I think the fact that he isn't constantly getting into trouble has worked wonders for his self-esteem. My relationship with him is blossoming. I feel closer to him now than before...and I thought it would be the opposite.

When I see that he's ready for a break, I give him a break. Well, usually. Sometimes he has to finish his project or worksheet before he can go play. But not having to have him fit into a "mold" in school looks good on him. He is honestly trying to do his best. Yes, we still use the Chum Bucket, but its use has at least been cut in half.

I feel fully validated and encouraged by things going so smoothly. It still baffles me that I am homeschooling, though. ME, of all people! And loving it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Chum Bucket...and the Krusty Krab

We love Spongebob. I know it's not the most innocent show, but it just cracks me up. So it was especially fitting when my sister told me about a friend of hers who had a "Chum Bucket" in their house. As I mentioned in my previous post, the Chum Bucket is used regularly around here. It has probably been one of the best parenting techniques I've used. Any time there is a problem: arguing, breaking rules, arguing, disobeying, being disrespectful, arguing, etc., I don't have to stop and think of a consequence. The immediate response is, "Go to the Chum Bucket."

It's filled with things the kids don't like to do: cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the family room, cleaning everyone's bedrooms, wiping down the kitchen cupboards, cleaning baseboards...oh, wait. Did I say things they don't like to do? I think I might mean me...

On the flip side, we have a "Krusty Krab" with rewards for the kids. These are for when I notice a kid doing something nice for someone else...or just being extra good. The other day, Mr. C offered half his dessert to M-Dog since there was only a little bit left. So, he got the Krusty Krab. The only stipulation is that I need to believe they are not doing kind gestures merely for a reward. If they come tell me about something great they did, they get a pat on the back and a hug, but they won't be getting the Krusty Krab. It needs to be genuine.

The Krusty Krab is filled with things the kids like: stay up an extra 1/2 hour, get popcorn after dinner, pick dinner for Friday night, get a treat, etc.

I'm always in need of fresh new ideas for both the Chum Bucket and Krusty Krab. So throw 'em at me! Lemme know whatcha got!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"I'm Fasting"

Another story about J-Man. It's not on purpose; he's just been providing me with some good material lately.

J-Man hates Cream of Rice. And oatmeal. I don't really blame him since I would rather eat tree bark than either of those. (By the way, none of the kids love Cream of Rice, but they tolerate it.) However, we have a rule in our house: What's served is what's eaten. These kids are spoiled, anyway. I lace their Cream of Rice with ribbons of sugar. It's not like they have to eat it plain. Well, unless they're not behaving. Then they get it au natural. And they only have to eat it like once or twice a week.

Anyhoo, this morning was a Cream of Rice day. I made freshly-ground rice with our grinder. They should appreciate that! None of that store-bought junk. Home spun!

J-Man had some complaints about my choice of breakfast. I told him I'd be sure to give him an extra helping. When the grub was ready for consumption, I called the kids in. They all came bounding in. Except for J-Man, that is. He sulked on the floor of the family room, trying to hide under the coffee table. I called him again. No movement. I called him a third time, and I saw a bit of writhing, like he was in agony over what he was about to ingest. But, he still didn't budge.

I told him he could go get the Chum Bucket (have I told you about the Chum Bucket? It's a "bucket" with consequences like "wipe down the bathroom," "clean the family room," "pick up 3 buckets of leaves," "pay mommy a dollar," etc. Anytime they are misbehaving, they go straight to the Chum Bucket--an excellent idea my sister shared with me).

Well, he got his Chum Bucket (which happened to be no t.v. for the day), and did his 1/2 hour room time (which they get each time they get a consequence). I figured he would be starving once he got out since this is the kid who out-eats both Superman and I at every meal. I told him he would be eating his Cream of Rice when he was hungry.

But, here we are, and it's almost 5 hours later. He just told me he's "fasting." The only reason he isn't eating is because he's "going to spend time praying and reading [his] Bible." It has nothing to do with the fact that Cream of Rice makes him want to vomit.* I told him that's wonderful and to let me know when he's ready to break his "fast." His Cream of Rice is patiently waiting on the counter.

*I'm sure I sound cruel here, but we always tell our kids that sometimes we have to eat things we don't like. What are they going to do when we take them out of the country on mission trips? We want them to be used to occasionally eating things that don't appeal to them so that when they're presented with something they find repulsive {to them}, they realize it's disrespectful to turn their noses up.
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