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Word a Day: Day 6 – Family

I haven’t done the last few days of the Word a Day blog challenge. I could come up with some excuses for it, but really, just couldn’t think past a vague idea for any of the words. And I didn’t feel like putting that much pressure on myself, after finishing one blog challenge in January and getting ready to do another in April(which I’m really looking forward to doing). Anyway, so I probably won’t post anything for every word this month. But, if that day’s word strikes me somehow, I will.

Anyway, today’s word is Family. I could probably go on and on about family; the ones we’re given and those we make. This is a theme that finds it’s way into a lot of my writing. My characters come from quite a variety of families. Some big, some really small. Some loving and accepting, others judgmental or cold.

My own family situation is probably not all that unusual, not in this day anyway. My parents got divorced when I was seven. I was daddy’s little girl and took it especially hard. My mom got remarried a year later. I didn’t always get along with my stepdad, but he’s the one who was there…for everything. A lot of the stepfathers I write are actually based on him and the relationship I have with him.

My dad would probably blame my mom as the reason he was never around. But, the fact is, she did everything she could to make sure we did see him. He was the one who was always cancelling his weekends with us. The one who always seemed to have something better to do than spending time with us. And when we were there, he seemed to think we always had to be doing something, when all I really wanted to do was spend time with him.

I have two older sisters. And, again, we haven’t always gotten along. Though I was always the quiet one, so most of the fighting happened between them. Even now that we’re all in our 30s, most of the fighting still happens between them.

There’s a number of cousins, both first and more distant, but we call all of them cousins, because otherwise it gets rather confusing. So, some of my bigger families in my stories have been based on them.

Overall, I have one of those fairly close-knit and supportive families. They may not always agree with your decisions, but they’ll still be there to support you.

When I first met my husband’s family, at least his dad’s side, it was a lot like going to my own family. And they accepted me right in, too.

Like I said, I write about a lot of different types of families. And sometimes that means meshing together very different experiences. I deal a lot with these different families in my Flames series. Like in Flames of Restoration, there’s a lot about the families we make. Nolan and Mark consider each other brothers after serving together in the Marine Corps and now working together for the fire department. Flames of Restoration is Nolan’s story, but this part deals with Mark and his thoughts about his own family, and how he can make things work with Caitie who had a very different family experience:

He’d never wanted kids. Hadn’t thought he’d be any kind of father. He hadn’t exactly had the warmest upbringing. And he didn’t want to turn out anything like his father. They may not be estranged anymore, but they were never going to be close. He wouldn’t want his kids to feel that way about him.
His kids? Why was he even having these thoughts? Him and Caitie hadn’t really talked about kids before. He knew she loved them, at least all her nieces and nephews, and her cousin’s kids. And, God, were there a lot of them.
But, they’d just moved in together a couple months ago. They weren’t even engaged. That had his chest tightening again. He’d thought about it. But, it was too soon, wasn’t it? It hadn’t even been six months since their one night stand at Kayla and Adrian’s wedding. He let out a soft snort at that.
Like one night ever would have been enough with her.
His breath caught at that. There were some days he wasn’t sure any amount of time would be enough with her. What did that mean, though? Certainly not that they could make a marriage work. Were they too different for that? Just look at their families. Hers was large, Catholic, close, loving. His was small, he doubted his parents believed in anyone but themselves. They were cold and about as far apart as they could get. How could people coming from such different directions make anything work?
And that thought just about ripped his heart from his chest. He wasn’t going to let his family take one more thing from him. They had nothing to do with whether or not him and Caitie worked out. She may end up walking away from him one day, but it wasn’t going to be now. And if now was all he’d get, he’d hold onto it as long as he could.

I could probably say more about different families, and my own, but this is already longer than I figured.

Flames A-Z: Takoda Family

If you haven’t noticed, families are a big thing in this series. Really all my stories, but in the Flames series(and spin0ffs), they are particularly interwoven. There are all kind of different families, too. The Rileys are a large, Irish-Catholic, very close-knit family. The Brookes are a much smaller unit, but just as close. The Davis family is not very close at all. The Young family is mostly estranged from each other(other than Mark and Maura, though things look better with their father by the end of Flames of Restoration).

We meet the Takodas in Flames of Renewal(book 2). This family is a little different. When we meet them, it’s just Teresa, her teenage son Christopher, and her granddaughter, Avery. This is very much a case of me not being very nice to my characters in their back story.

Joseph Takoda was a high school teacher in Pittsburgh, Pa. He worked at an inner city school, volunteered at a youth center, tried to help kids in his neighborhood basically any way he could. He met Teresa Caridi at the local library where she worked. She was pretty impressed with what she saw:

“I met Joseph when I was twenty-four when I finally came back to Pennsylvania and had a job at a library in Pittsburgh. Worked on teaching some adults to read. And we had a special program for the kids in that neighborhood. Joseph came in one night while I worked with this group of kids.” Her hand shook slightly. “I’m sure you don’t want to hear our whole love story.”
“It’s okay, Teresa,” he said, reaching over and taking her hand. “You know mine and Sarah’s. I want to know everything about you I missed the last thirty years.”
“He knew those kids’ names. Each and every one of them. That’s the first thing I noticed about him. He got right down on their level and actually talked to them. I found out later he taught at one of the high schools and also volunteered at a youth center. He knew all these kids or older siblings.”
“He sounds like he was a good man.”
“He was. One of the best. We dated for two years. Then, he asked me to marry him.” She laughed and took another sip of her wine. “He didn’t really propose, I guess. He asked if I’d like to marry him. The next day we went and picked out a ring together. We married in front of a judge a month later. That may be the only thing I’ve ever done that really upset my parents. They got over it though. They really liked him too.”
James wasn’t sure what to say. “I think I might have liked to meet him.”

Teresa is from Crystal Glen. She lived there until her best friend, Sarah Brooke, died in a fire along with Sarah’s son. She did some traveling before settling in Pittsburgh. She had a nice life, for the most part, with Joseph and their two kids until her husband was killed on his way to the youth center to volunteer his time tutoring kids.

Their oldest child, Samantha, was born a few years into the marriage. She was always a handful for them, but it wasn’t until her early teen years that it became more than just some behavior issues. She took off after her father was killed and didn’t come home again.

She moved over to him to see what pictures he looked at. At least it was one of the few they had where Samantha actually smiled. “Our last family vacation before…before Joseph was killed. Chris was just eight. Sam was almost fifteen.”
“She was a beautiful girl,” he said, looking down at the other picture. “You can see the fire in her eyes.”
“She burned so hot. And then nothing. Then, those flames would leap up again. We woke almost every morning wondering what version of her we’d see that day. So smart, but it was like we lived on a rollercoaster.”
He set the pictures back down and turned to her, putting his arms around her. “I’m sorry, Teresa. It had to be hard to lose her.”
“Like I said, we’d already lost her. We tried to get her help. She saw a therapist. We got her into a program when we found drugs in her room. God.”
He ran a hand up and down her back. “I didn’t know things then,” she continued. “Didn’t realize she was self-medicating. Didn’t think there was anything wrong, she just had an intense personality. I should have done more. Then, Joseph was dead, and I-I couldn’t cope. Everything fell apart. And I couldn’t-”

Chris was born after Samantha had started school. Not close in age or really in personality, either. Christopher was the laidback child, and later, the one who always wanted to please.

Teresa nodded and turned to the teenage boy leaning against the wall. “Chris.”
He smiled, and she couldn’t believe how much he looked like his father. It sent a pang of grief through her heart even after more than six years.
“We’ll be fine, Mom. Go on to your class. If she has an attack, we’ll call you. I’m sure she’ll be fine. She’s been calming down better.”
“I know, Chris. I just worry. Okay, I’m going now. I’ll see you in a few hours. What do you want for dinner, pizza or burgers?”
He laughed. “Pizza’s fine, Mom, but we really should get groceries soon. We’ve been in the house a month. We can’t just subsist on take-out and drive throughs.”
It was her turn to laugh. “Chris, you’re a teenager. You’re supposed to want to live on that stuff.”
He shrugged a shoulder. “What can I say? I’m a weird one.”
She couldn’t help it, she threw her arms around him. “I’m thankful for you every day, you know that, right?”
“Go on, Mom.”
He acted like he didn’t care, but she could see the flush rise to his face. “All right, I’m going. I’ll see you later.”

Avery is Samantha’s daughter. Teresa didn’t know her, although Samantha had sent her a picture just after she was born. Not until she was almost six years old, and Teresa learned that her daughter was dead. Avery had a rough beginning to life, has a tendency to panic, especially when things don’t follow routine, and barely even talks when Teresa first gets her.

She shook her head. “If I would have paid more attention, she wouldn’t have run away barely a month after he died. I tried to find her, but I couldn’t. A year later, I got a letter from her with a picture of Avery. I hired a private investigator, but I couldn’t pay him for long. There were a couple calls over the years, but I never saw her again. I should have done more. That little girl shouldn’t have had to spend the first five years of her life living on the streets.”

Photo Friday: Christmas Fun

We have two of our Christmases(three actually, but the first was earlier this month) done for this year. One more to go tomorrow. On Wednesday, we went to my MiL’s for our Christmas with her. We had pizza for our Christmas Eve dinner then opened presents.

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When we got home, the kids found Santa’s elves had snuck into the house again and left them each a new pair of pajamas. They put them on and we read The Night Before Christmas. Actually this year the girl read it to us, instead of me reading it.

In the morning, the girl was awake at 5:30, but the boy wasn’t. So, I told her to go in her room and read one of her new books until he got up. Which was about half an hour later. And she’d finished another 3 chapters. They didn’t get a whole lot, but Santa was a little mean and even wrapped some of the candy in their stockings(was trying to make it last longer than 10 minutes). The boy got a new bike and the girl a Kindle Fire, which didn’t leave a lot of money in the budget for other gifts. But, they didn’t seem too upset that they each only had a couple things under the tree. We’ve always kept things small at home, though. They also got gifts from “grandma carol”(husband’s stepmom’s stepmom who lives next to us, but is in Florida for the winter). And the girl got each of us a gift from the Christmas shop at school.

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After they were done, we had doughnuts for breakfast and got ready to go down to my mom’s. This was about 6:30 and we didn’t have to be there until 10:30. So, we wasted some time and didn’t leave until 9:30. The first thing we did on getting there, of course, was dig into the sticky rolls my mom makes every year(this may sound familiar for anyone who’s read Flames of Redemption).

one half gone batch of sticky rolls

one half gone batch of sticky rolls

Once my oldest sister got there, we went downstairs to open presents. I don’t know why, but the clashing voices of 6 kids(aged 3-11) and the adults really triggers my anxiety. A few times I thought I’d lose it. I actually had to go upstairs to get control of it again.

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We have nothing to do today, but tomorrow we have our Christmas with my husband’s stepmom and his siblings. Then, our Christmases will be over and it will be time to recharge after all the socialness of the last days.

Family Friday: Summer Fun

We have been blessed recently with some really nice weather. This was really nice especially with my niece’s 5th birthday party this past Sunday. They just recently got a pool, so Hayleigh was really looking forward to swimming at the party.  And thankfully the weather cooperated for that. Shortly after we got to the party, Hayleigh was in the pool. Of course, she can’t swim on her own, so I was in there with her and she had her life jacket on. But, even with that on, she was clinging to me. After presents were opened and cake and ice cream eaten, we were back in the pool. Two of her cousins had these “puddle jumper” flotation device things. I had seen them before, but didn’t want to get them for her until I had tried them on her. So, she borrowed one of her cousin’s while we were there. And suddenly I had a completely different child.

Hayleigh has always been a very cautious child, pretty much from the day she was born. She would sit and watch everything until she was sure she could do it. She’s still that way really. Well, once she got these puddle jumpers on, that was gone. She was still a little nervous at first, but that soon went away. She didn’t cling to us. She even swam her way across the pool(with us right next to her, but we didn’t have to hold on to her). After that, we decided we definitely needed to get her one of her own. It seemed pointless last year because we really only went swimming a couple times a year(and she has really only grown into the weight range, 30-50 lbs, in the last year). But, we now know three different people with pools, one of them my sister-in-law who lives just down the driveway from us. So, I see more swimming in our future. Cory’s mom picked up one of these puddle jumpers this week, so now Hayleigh has her own.

Trying on her puddle jumper

Cory’s mom was on vacation this week, and she came up on Wednesday to take us to lunch and then to the park so the kids could play. Hayleigh had the choice between Pizza Hut or McDonald’s(really the only choices in our town). And she chose McDonald’s. This isn’t odd for an almost five-year-old, but her reason for the choice? Because they have apples there. And she ate those before she even touched her nuggets or fries. After lunch, we headed over to the park. The kids had a lot of fun going up the steps and down the slides(okay, Nathan had more fun going up and down the steps and acting like he was going to dive right off the platforms), and swinging. I am really starting to believe that I gave birth to a monkey who has absolutely no fear. Certainly the exact opposite of his big sister.Although she did go part way across the monkey bars with me holding onto her legs. and she did go up the little rock wall(although she couldn’t figure out at first what to do with her hands and feet when she got close to the top.

Maybe I’ll just jump down…or give Mommy a heart attack

thinking about walking down the slide

Going up the rock wall

After we left that park, we went to another little playground in town. And the kids played there some more. And Nathan ended up having to sit on the bench for a bit because he kept trying to run out of the playground towards the road. Like I said, no fear.

riding the motorcycle at the “tot lot”

riding the horse

driving the fire truck

climbing down the slide

The kids had a good time playing. And Nathan came home and took a late 2 hour nap and was only up a little past when he would usually be asleep at night. Of course, they were both still up fairly early in the morning, but that is just a normal occurrence in our house.

Family Friday: Happy Easter and 3rd Quarter Progress Report

I hope everyone that celebrates had a wonderful Easter last weekend. Ours was pretty good. We ended up not coloring eggs this year. We didn’t have any in the house at the end of the week and didn’t feel like running to the store for just eggs. Neither of the kids seemed to know the difference and the Easter bunny was going to be hiding plastic eggs around the house anyway(so he didn’t have to worry about the early rising kids in the house waking up before he got here;)), so I didn’t worry about it too much.

We had to put out a snack of carrots and water(since Hayleigh thought he would need a drink to go with his snack). And he left the Easter baskets sitting right out on their coloring table. Sunday morning, Hayleigh comes running into our room, “Mommy, come see what’s on the coloring table. What the Easter bunny brought me.” It was so cute seeing how excited she was.

Easter baskets for the kids

The Easter bunny was pretty nice about hiding the eggs as well. Most were “hidden” in plain sight. Must have been thinking about Nathan when they were hidden. Although he was more interested in opening the first one he found and seeing what was in it than finding any other eggs.

Checking out his Easter basket

Carrying an egg around

Showing off her new sunglasses

Sunday afternoon we went to Cory’s aunt’s for Easter dinner. Ham, scalloped potatoes, corn, carrots, and strawberry pretzel dessert(YUM!). And an egg hunt for the kids a little later. It was a good time.

All dressed up for Easter

Finding some eggs

Standing in front of a large inflatable Easter Bunny

 

Last Tuesday, before starting their Easter break, Hayleigh brought home her third quarter report card. The only thing she “needs improvement” with, other than interacting with others, is recognizing words that rhyme, producing rhyming words, and writing her name with proper formation, all of which has improved over the last month or so.

Academically, she’s doing great though. She can identify all 8 colors, 6 out of 6 shapes, recognizes 11/11 numbers and can point and count at least 15 objects. And she counts up to 100 even though the end of the year goal is only 20.

She identifies 52/52 letters and recognizes 25 out of 26 letter sounds. She also recognizes name in print, can sing ABC song, Repeats rhymes/poems, can hear and combine letter sounds, and can count the number of syllables in a word(she is always having us clap the parts of words at home).

Family Friday: Do We Stay or Go?

We had parent-teacher conferences at Hayleigh’s school on Tuesday. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook will know about this all ready. Her teachers expressed some concerns about her development, most her social development and some of her motor skill delays. We were all set on sending her on to Kindergarten next year, but after this meeting, we’re torn between keeping her back and sending her on.

There are no concerns from any of us about her academic progress. She is right where she needs to be there. She counts to 100(they only expect 30 by the end of the year), she knows all of her shapes, colors, letters, and letter sounds. She’s even starting to recognize words when we’re reading books. We were reading Fox in Socks the other night and she read the first few pages, only needing help with the name “Knox”. Once I explained to her that the K was silent, she didn’t have a problem. Now, once the sentences got more complex, I did more of the reading, but still I was impressed with what she could do.

But, even though the school year is about three-quarters of the way through, she is not adjusting, especially socially. It’s not just that she won’t talk or play with the other kids either. She won’t interact with them. If there’s something she wants or wants to do, and another kid is in her way, she’ll go do something else. She won’t try to push her way through or even ask for them to get out of her way. If she needs help with something, she won’t ask. She just sits there until someone notices she needs help.

I was discussing some of these issues with my mom on Wednesday and her response? “Hmmm. That sounds like someone else.” Yes, she takes after me. And that’s the problem. I don’t want her to be like me. I don’t want her to have the same issues when it comes to dealing with people. Everyone thinks I’m just shy, but it goes even deeper than that. And there’s the guilt I feel because I feel like at least some of why she is this way is because of me. And not just that I may have passed my personality on to her. But, because of my own social issues, she never really socialized with other kids when she was younger. So, I wonder if she would have, would she be at least a little more outgoing? Or if even not outgoing, at least be able to adjust to being around other kids and interact with them. But, then I look at Nathaniel, and he’s had the exact same early environment, but the exact opposite personality. So it may have not made any difference. And I know it doesn’t make any difference to question myself now. There’s no way to go back and change it.

And if we move her on to Kindergarten, she will likely not receive her speech therapy services anymore. Which in a way is good. It means she’s come far enough that they don’t feel she needs them anymore. But, the requirements are different once they consider a kid school age, so they have to be further delayed than when they were younger. If we keep her in the pre-k program, she’ll still receive those services. And if she loses the speech therapy, she likely won’t qualify for the physical and occupational therapy services anymore either. And she does still need them. She especially struggles with the fine motor skills, like cutting and writing. It’s not that she can’t do it, just that it takes her longer. It takes her longer to do just about everything it seems. Even eating snack. And when she goes to Kindergarten, she’ll have half an hour to get her lunch, her seat, eat, and throw everything away. And if she has trouble opening something, she doesn’t ask for help. The last thing we want is for her to go hungry because she didn’t have enough time to eat because she wouldn’t ask for help with something.

And another concern her teachers had is that she seems to need to be walked through every step of a routine. And this is something we’ve seen at home too. It’s a long process to get her ready for school. We have to tell her to put her shirt on. Then put her pants on. Then get her shoes on and her coat. We can’t just say, “Hayleigh, get dressed” or “get ready to go.” It’s like we have to walk her through every step of it. And we’ve been hearing a lot of “I can’t”s lately, even when it’s something we know she can do perfectly fine.

And there’s her level of frustration when she doesn’t do something exactly right. The other day she was practicing writing her name and while writing her last name made an M instead of W. I just made a comment that it wasn’t quite a W, and suddenly she couldn’t do it anymore. She does this with everything. She’s always been a perfectionist. I honestly think that’s part of why it took her longer to walk and talk.

There are plenty of pros and cons on both sides of this decision, which is why we are so torn over it. Right now though, I think we’re leaning more toward keeping her back for another year in Pre-K. We don’t have to make a final decision yet though.

In other news, Nathaniel had his 18 month check-up yesterday. He now weighs 25 lbs, 4 oz(60%). I really thought he was going to weigh more than that. He is almost 32 inches long(25%). So, he’s kind of short and chunky. 😉 I think he may be about to go through a growth spurt though, so if his appointment had been in another week or two, those stats could have been different.

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