About gooddaypickle

I've thought a long time about starting a blog, but I never really thought I had much to say, but I figure that there are a TON of blogs out there that have less important and interesting things to talk about. I guess we'll see how this goes together. I am a husband to an incredible wife, and a dad to three crazy boys and two dogs. This blog will be mostly about dealing with life as a dad to my three boys who, as I start this blog, range in age from 5-7. All three boys present different challenges. From the oldest who is ADHD and Austistic, to the youngest who is, though we have not had him tested, is quite possibly, in the genius range for IQ. Another unique challenge I face is that I am not the biological father to any of the three, and none of them are related by "blood". The oldest two (only 7 1/2 months apart in age) were adopted from the foster care system by me and my first wife, while the youngest one is my step-son from my wife's first marriarge. This blog will attempt to show that, despite the conucopia, plethora, and potpouri of challenges I fadce on a daily basis, I am truly one of the luckiest guys on the face of the Earth.

I’ve Lost My Faith…

This is going to be a deeply personal entry for me. It may even sit in my draft folder for who-knows-how-long because it’s not really something I’ve ever discussed with anyone outside my wife, Sara, and we haven’t discussed it in length; though I know she understands how I feel. *edit* In fact, this post has been sitting in my draft box for almost 4 months and is, I suspect, the biggest reason why I mostly stopped blogging over the summer.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I want to be clear that I have NOT stopped believing in God. I believe that declaring with 100% certainty there is NO God is just as ignorant, egotistical, and wrong, as declaring with 100% certainty there IS a God, and he believes that same things you believe. But I have lost my faith in Christianity and in the Bible. I am not, and will never be, an atheist. The closest word that describes what I believe (or what I don’t believe) is agnostic.  I don’t know why I feel compelled to blog about it, I just do.

Growing up, my parents were not religious, at least not outwardly. I believe I was pretty close to being a teenager before I ever set foot in a church of any kind. There are a lot of reasons for this. My mom was brought up in a strict Church of Christ household, and she did not (and does not today) agree with much of the CoC “doctrine” (if that’s the right word). My dad was Southern Baptist, but being in the Air Force and moving every four years (or less) did not lend itself to my parents finding a church when I was a kid.

Once my dad retired from the Air Force, we moved back to my parents’ home town, but we just weren’t in the habit of going to church. I was brought up to believe in God and the Bible, but I had no idea how many denominations of Christianity there were, nor what made any of them different until I was well into my teen years. I spent the ages of 4-9 in Utah, and learned a good bit about Mormons, but it was so prevalent and ingrained in the culture there, I had no idea that other people did not believe the same things they believed. For example, they taught us in school that Jesus came to North America after he was crucified and ministered to the American Indians. That floors me to this day.

Anyway, once my family moved back to Texas, we went to church sporadically. We always went to a Southern Baptist church, and I had fond memories and an overall positive view of Southern Baptists, and the church in general. When I was in high school, I became good friends with a group of kids that were very active in their respective churches and youth groups, and I was “saved” two days before my 17th birthday.

I was all-in. Church every Sunday. Bible study every week. Daily prayer and meditation. Church softball with my youth group. Lock-ins at the church. You name it. If it was a church activity for the youth group, I was there. Those are still some of my fondest memories from my teen years.

I look back on it now, however, and realize just how obnoxious and arrogant I was. I still cringe when I think of the time in my Philosophy class at the University of Texas that I argued with a professor over whether I KNEW if I was going to heaven or not. Of course I KNEW. The Bible told me that if I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, then I would go to heaven. If it was in the Bible, then I KNEW it was true. But, that is a lie. Yes, I had faith I was going to heaven, but I did not, and could not, know I was going to heaven.

These days, I don’t really believe in heaven. I believe when you die, you just stop being. No afterlife, no heaven, no hell. Just…nothing. That’s probably a sad idea to some (or most) of you reading this, but I think it’s arrogant and childish to believe that there is a life after this one. Heck, not only that there is a life after this one, but that ONLY people who believe the EXACT same thing I do will get to be in the “good” part. EVERYONE else goes to the “bad” part. That is the HEIGHT of arrogance, in my opinion.

So, you may be wondering, what exactly happened to me to make me lose my faith. To be sure, I have had my fair share (or maybe more than my fair share) of sorrow, trials, and heartbreak. But those things alone had little, if anything, to do with it. It had more to do with the things I see around me, that caused me to lose my faith. War, death, starvation, disease, the abuse of the innocent and the helpless, all the bad things that happen to good people. All the while, Christians believe it is just “a part of God’s plan”.

Well, you know what? If God loves us (and John 3:16 tells us he does), then why wouldn’t he end these things? Why would he allow children to be physically, sexually, and mentally abused? Why would he allow ministers to rape and pillage their church congregation (literally and figuratively) all in His name? Why would he allow something like 9/11 happen? Why would there be discrimination and hatred scattered throughout the Bible?

Christians I know almost always say, “We can’t know the mind of God”, and it’s “His will”. They’ve told me that it is man’s “free will” that causes all of the bad things in the world. I’ve even had Christians tell me that maybe the Lord is “testing” us. What. The. Fuck. Seriously? Let me be clear about this: IF there is a God, and he can stop bad things from happening, then He can go FUCK himself for not stopping the bad things in the world. I will never understand the Christian who just shrugs their shoulders, and completely wipes their hands of the bad things in life, and proceeds to “leave it to God”.

I think I’m starting to understand why it is I have been hesitant to post this entry. The overall tone of it seems much angrier than I FEEL. I really hold no animosity whatsoever towards Christians or Christianity. I just don’t believe in it any more. It’s something I’ve come to grips with over a very long period of time. I’m certainly more at peace with my feelings than I have been in the past. In fact, that’s probably another reason why I wanted to write about this.

So, there you have it. I really don’t know why I felt so compelled to write about this other than it’s been weighing on my mind for quite a long time (several years, in fact). I know there won’t be a lot of people who agree with me, and many who will flat-out condemn me to Hell for it. That’s ok. In fact, I’d rather go to Hell for eternity than worship the same God as the Evangelicals and the Religious Right.

A lot can happen in two years…

Two years ago, I was at a completely different place in my life. I was lonely, depressed, stressed out, and I weighed 426 lbs. That’s right, 426 lbs. My dad talked me into getting weight loss surgery in early 2010, and I started seeing a doctor in March of that year. My doctor set me up on a plan to meet the requirements for Lap Band surgery, and off I went.

I was always a heavy guy. Even when I was a kid, I was always one of, if not THE, biggest kids in my class in school. Growing up, I was fairly athletic, playing football, and baseball, and doing all the things kids do. I never really felt “held back” by my weight in any physical way, until I got into my mid 30s when I hit the mid 300 range.

That was when I really started noticing how much my back hurt when I was walking, and how winded I got when I was at work. I also had a hard time keeping up with my boys. After my first wife died, my weight problem got even worse, and before I knew it, it had snowballed to over 400 lbs. I was unable to do almost anything that required even minimal physical exertion.

I was also incredibly lonely. Once I started with my weight loss doctor and I began seeing results, I gained a bit more confidence and decided I would “test the waters” in the dating pool. It’s not easy finding a dating partner when one weighs over 4 bills (shocking, I know), but I set out to try. Being lucky enough to live in a fairly large city, I signed up on a couple of dating websites just to see what was out there.

To my complete surprise, I started dating someone fairly quickly. Her name was Stephanie, and she was only the 2nd girl I had ever really dated (my first wife being the only other). That relationship lasted a little over a month, and I could tell that it wasn’t really going anywhere. Over Memorial Day weekend of 2010, she broke up with me.

So, back online I went. I had started emailing/texting a couple of women from the site when I ran across a profile for a very cute, but younger, woman. She was about 9 years younger than me, but, I thought, what the heck? Worse thing that could happen is that she wouldn’t answer my email. I didn’t think she liked me at first, but once we started texting back and forth, we became very close in just a matter of days. My first email to her was on June 1st. By the 4th, we were both pretty smitten.

We decided we would meet up on Saturday, June 5th. The main problem? She was a single mom with one kid, and I was a single dad with two kids. Our solution? Meet at the mall, and let the boys play in the play land while she and I talked, and got to know each other better (we even sneaked a kiss or two while our boys weren’t looking…haha). 

It was in that play land that I KNEW I was in love with her. I was pretty sure she felt the same way, but I knew I had better not say anything because the quickest way to scare someone off is to start throwing around the “L” word too quickly.

I also had a small problem. Before she and I had hit it off so well, I had made a date to meet another woman later that Saturday night. After the date at the play land, however, I knew that it was not fair to anyone (especially the woman I was now in love with) to go through with that date.

I texted Sara after our date at the play land, asking, “If I cancel my date tonight, would it be ok if I came over for dinner and/or a movie?” She texted back almost immediately, “ABSOLUTELY!” So, that night, we had our first official “grown up” date.

I also decided that night that I couldn’t hide my feelings any longer, and told her that I was falling in love with her. She looked at me and smiled, and said she felt the same way, but was afraid to say it so fast. I think we both knew right then and there that we would get married, and live the rest of our lives together.

It’s now two years later. I have lost about 180 lbs, I am healthier than I have ever been, and I am more in love with Sara with each passing day. I never thought it was possible to be this blissfully happy, but here I am.

Here is a nice picture of our family taken this past Christmas:

Happy Anniversary, baby! I love you!

This was posted by my wife on her blog. If you are not following her, you should. She’s awesome (if I do say so myself).

crazyantelope

Today was Colin’s birthday party. We did what every mother dreams of doing for Mothers Day and went to Chuck E Cheese!

Oh, wait, that’s not what most moms want to do on Mothers Day? Must be why the place was basically empty!

(I should say my Mothers Day started in the “normal” fashion – sleeping in, breakfast in bed from my awesome husband and kiddos, and wonderful presents!)

For months now, Colin’s been determined that he would get the new “magic ticket” from the ticket blaster – this one ticket is worth 1000 tickets! Pretty sure that’s the biggest number he’s able to fathom. He kept telling us he was going to get the magic ticket so he could get “all the prizes.” We’ve been trying to explain that wasn’t really how it worked, but he didn’t want to hear any of that.

When it came time for a…

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Don’t wait until it’s too late…

I lost a dear friend yesterday. Someone I’ve known for close to 30 years. We literally grew up together, and I loved her more than I can say. She had a terrible, random, and tragic accident. She was almost a week from her 41st birthday.

Tracey and her ex-husband, Steve, were my two best friends for about 25 years. They were high school sweethearts who married after they graduated college, and stayed married until less than 3 years ago. The last time I talked with Tracey was via email not long after her divorce was final, about 2 years ago.

I tried a couple of times to reach out to her since that time, but to no avail. I assumed talking to me brought up bad memories of her ex husband, with whom I was still very close. I should have tried harder.

Her birthday was a week from this Sunday, and I had already composed half of the email I was going to send her in my head. So many things I wanted to tell her.  About how much my life had changed over the last two years, how much I missed talking to her, how much I wanted us to be close again, but now I won’t get the chance to tell her. Ever.

I know there is someone out there you love that, for one reason or another, you have lost contact with. Call them. Email them. Write them a hand written letter. Something. Anything. TODAY. Before it’s too late.

Being a foster parent

As I’ve mentioned a time or two, my first wife and I adopted Colin and Ryan from foster care. The journey we took to become foster parents, and the roller coaster ride we took before we were done fostering, was a life defining experience for me. To tell the story properly, I have to go back to 1998; when I first met Wendy.

We met through a then relatively new and novel way: a dating web site: Match.com. Very soon after we met, Wendy told me that she was diabetic, and that she was also having some health issues related to fibroid cysts that included pain and bleeding. Her doctor had recommended she have a complete hysterectomy. So, about 6 weeks after we met, she went in for surgery, and our hope of ever having biological children together vanished.

At the time we met, Wendy was a nanny, and had been so for about 3 or 4 years. She loved children, and the only thing she ever really wanted to be in life was to be a mother. We knew right away that we would look into adoption after we got married.

Two years after we met, we were married. We had already begun looking at options for adoption and/or surrogates. We even had one of Wendy’s cousins offer to be a surrogate, but that turned out to be an empty promise. So, after looking at overseas adoption, and domestic adoption, and every other option you could think of, we decided we would be foster-to-adopt parents. We decided it would be a great way to help at-risk children in our own community while also being a way to possibly adopt kids that really needed the love we had to give.

We were “all-in” immediately. We asked to be placed on the “emergency foster” list, which meant we could (and often did) get phone calls looking to place children with us at 1 or 2 in the morning. We got children that were literally taken directly from their abusive home and placed in our home. We had children placed with us directly from the hospital a day or two after being born. We took any and all children Child Protective Services was willing to place with us. The only restriction we had was that we wanted children under the age of 5 since we knew that our ultimate goal was adoption.

Our first placement came less than 48 hours after being licensed. We went through the training classes in the spring of 2001. We had to move from a one bedroom to a two bedroom apartment before being licensed, so we did that in May of that year. CPS, moving with the glacier like speed they are known for, finally sent our case worker to do our home study at the beginning of September of that year. About a week after the case worker came out, 9/11 happened. That set us back even further. We should have known then how frustrating CPS could be, but we soldiered on.

The Friday before the week of Thanksgiving, we were out-of-town visiting relatives. That afternoon, we got a voice mail message from our case worker that our license had been approved! We were so excited, we cut our trip short, and rushed home. We knew things could happen quickly once we were licensed, and we weren’t disappointed.

We received a call for an emergency placement the next day; Saturday afternoon. The case worker told us that she had a child that was about to be removed from a home because of physical abuse, and she wanted to line up a home to place him in before she removed him. We gladly accepted, thinking our first placement would be in our home soon. Well, after about 16 hours, and after several phone calls all promising he would be there “soon”, Nicholas was brought to our home, complete with several bruises on his cheek and forehead, and a black eye. He wasn’t a happy camper, but the kid was tough (we soon came to realize that was a common trait among foster children), and he quickly was a very happy and healthy 6 month old baby boy.

We were sure we were going to adopt Nicholas. How could CPS send him back to live with that family? How could they think they were a better fit for him than us? Well, about a month after celebrating his first birthday, CPS sent him to live with his grandmother (who, by the way, tried to help her daughter escape from the police when they came to remove Nicholas from her custody).

That is when we discovered some things about CPS. They have certain belief systems that they hold dear, one of which, is that “blood relatives” always take priority over foster families.  That policy probably works for about 90-95% of families (MAYBE), but we felt in this case it was ridiculous. We also found out that most caseworkers are VERY over worked and under paid. This causes them sometimes to worry more about getting the case off their desk, instead of worrying more about what is in the best interest of the child.

Don’t get me wrong, I think CPS workers, by a LARGE majority, are wonderful people, who do a job that I don’t think I could do. But, some are just burnt out, and in over their heads. It’s a real shame when you run into those workers.

But, despite wanting to quit several times, we carried on. In just over 5 years, Wendy and I fostered 23 children ranging in ages newborn to 4 years old. We fostered Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic children, with almost an equal number of boys and girls. We had children in our home that had been born addicted to heroin, alcohol, methamphetamine, marijuana, etc.

The most heart breaking experience we had was one little girl who came to us at 6 months old, and she had over 20 different fractures. Her jaw was broken in two places, and she was in so much pain, we had to feed her with an NG Tube for over a week. Her wrist was so badly broken, that she didn’t crawl until she was 10 months old. She was also given back to her grandmother (who was letting the girl and her parents live with her during the time of the abuse).

We saw so many things that almost made us give up. It almost ruined my faith in humanity, as a matter of fact. But, we carried on. In June of 2004, a 5 week old little boy came to live with us named Jessie. A year and 4 months later, we adopted him, and changed his name to Colin. A little over a year after that, we adopted Ryan, and our family was complete. So was our journey of being foster parents.

I can say, without a doubt, the experience changed me forever. I like to think it changed me for the better.

Ryan’s sisters…

As I mentioned in this post, Ryan has a bit of a complicated back story that includes having two half-sisters that were adopted by another family. We don’t get together with them nearly enough, but we do meet with them once or twice a year. This past weekend, Ryan was having his last soccer game of the season, so his younger sister (she just turned 12), and her parents (Don and Laura) came to watch. The oldest sister is 21, and she has moved out of her parents’ house and did not make it, but Sara and I are both friends with her on Facebook.

Don and Laura live about 45 mins away from us, and they had some difficulties getting to the game on time, so they were not able to catch any of the game itself, but we did all go for ice cream afterwards. It was really nice to be able to sit and talk with them, and let Ryan spend some time with his sister (although I’m still not really sure if he completely understands the whole situation). Sara and I both (not to mention Don and Laura) think it is incredibly important for Ryan to get to know, and have a strong bond with, his sisters. Both of them really seem to enjoy seeing and talking with him, too.

We got thrown a bit of a curveball this time, though. I mentioned to Don and Laura that Sara and I were friends with the oldest daughter on FB, and that it seems she was doing well. She is set to graduate with a four-year degree from a pretty good university, she has a steady boyfriend, and a steady job. We also knew that she had moved out of their house.

Don and Laura started telling us, though, about how the last few months had been “a living hell”, and that things were “not good” with Sharon. Sara and I were stunned. We both looked at each other and I could tell that all sorts of things were running through both of our minds. Ryan and his sisters all have the same mom, but different dads (as far as we know). So we were thinking, maybe Sharon was taking drugs, or was sleeping around. Or maybe she was stealing things, or had gotten pregnant. Considering her background and the fact that Sharon and her sister had been removed from their mom’s custody about the time Sharon was 10 or 11, the things that could cause her parents to say they were going through “a living hell” could have been anything.

Sara and I were bracing for the worst. I asked what was going on, and Don starts talking about Sharon having a boyfriend, and that she had been “drinking” and “smoking”. He explained that she was also living with her boyfriend. A friend of  Sharon’s and her boyfriend were living there as well. She also had been pretty much lying about all those things for a few years.

Don and Laura are an “older” couple, and they are both very religious. Now, I don’t want to belittle the things that Sharon did. Underage drinking, and smoking, are not “good” things. They are also not, in my and Sara’s opinion, “a living hell”. I think Sara and I both were stunned just because we were expecting “more”. Sara even said at one point, “What else has she done?” Don just looked at her like he didn’t understand the question. Sara went on to say (half-jokingly), “I guess I was lucky that I lived in a different state than my parents when I was doing all those things.”

I know different parents have different expectations for their children.  I also know that Don and Laura grew up in a different time and place than their daughters, but if the occasional drink of alcohol and the occasional cigarette, are the WORST things that Ryan (or any of our boys) do, I will consider our parenting to be exceptional. Especially if our boys are about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree (a year early) and planning on going to grad school. In fact, to me, the worst thing Sharon did was that she lied about what was she was doing. Under the circumstances though, and seeing how Don and Laura reacted, I can understand her hiding those things from her parents.

I don’t ever want my boys to think of me as their “friend” before thinking of  me as their parent, but I also want them to understand that my love for them will not change because of the things they do, or the choices they make. I want them to always know that they can tell me ANYTHING and my love will always be truly unconditional. That doesn’t mean I will always like or agree with their choices, but their choices are theirs to make. I can only raise them the best I can and help them make the best choices possible. Everything else is out of my hands.

Meds or no meds Part 2: change is always hard…

Colin is 100% a creature of habit and routine. He craves it; needs it, really. If his routine (or what he EXPECTS to be his routine) is changed in any way, a meltdown can, and often does, occur. Something as simple as taking a different route home than he’s used to can cause heightened anxiety, and a load of questions. 

Over the last 4 months or so, Sara and I have noticed that Colin’s meds were not having the same effect they once were. When we first went to our developmental pediatrician, he gave Colin a “booster” dose of Ritalin in the afternoon to help with the “crash” he was having after school, plus he put him on, Abilify (as a mood stabilizer). For the first year or so, it worked wonderfully. He was having fewer meltdowns, he was nicer to his brothers (most of the time), and he was doing well in school.

At the beginning of this year, though, things started going down hill. We went back to our pediatrician, and he upped the dosage of Abilify. That did not help. In fact, it made things much worse. He would cry and meltdown at the drop of a hat, and was mean and violent more and more towards his brothers. We stopped the Abilify within about 2 days.

We have gone through a couple different combinations of meds, including trying Risperidone, but nothing has really worked so far. Our pediatrician recommended we try a psychiatrist that specializes in kids like Colin, so we started seeing him about a month ago.

He put Colin on a low dose of Clonidine to help him sleep, and that has helped him some. He at least goes to sleep at a decent hour, whereas before he would be up until 10 or 11 pm, then he would wake up any time between 4:30 and 6:00 am. I have always believed that Colin’s lack of sleep is a BIG reason for a lot of his behavioral issues. Even as an infant, Colin never napped.

I believe if we could figure out a way for him to sleep longer, a lot of his behavior problems would at least get better, if not work themselves out. Colin, on the other hand, has different ideas. Sara and I basically thank our lucky stars if he sleeps past 5:45 or 6 am, which can be  especially hard on Sara.

She is with Colin, without help from me, during his most unmedicated times of the day because I work nights (10 pm to 6:30 am). Trying to get herself up and ready for work in the morning, while also making our three boys breakfast and getting them ready for school, all the while having to keep Colin in line, is probably too much to ask of one person. But, she does the very best she can, and fights through the challenges like a champ.

We are hoping that putting Colin on something stronger (and, hopefully, longer lasting) will help put an end to the roller coaster of hyperactivity he goes through on a daily basis. To that end, we have started him on Adderall, with an eye towards moving him to the extended release version once we get the dosage worked out. 

This presents a few challenges. First of all, like I said before, Colin does not deal well with change. Seeing the new pill brought up a bit of anxiety, plus a whole host of questions (What is this pill for? Why is it blue? What happened to my circle pill (that’s what he called one of this other pills)?  Etc…

Secondly, since it is a new med, we have to start on a very low dose and work our way up to the optimal dose. This causes problems dealing with his behaviors both at home and at school. We also have to file paperwork with the school so that they can give him his afternoon dose. I have yet to do that since we are not sure we will stick with this medication, nor are we sure we will even need the school to give him his afternoon dose once all is said and done.

So, for now, I go to the school every day at noon and give him his afternoon dose myself. The one benefit of that is I get a mid-day report on how his behavior is that day. It is not, however, optimal conditions for me resting during the day.

But these are the sacrifices we make for our children. Sara and I just want what’s best for Colin, and we are still not sure if Adderall is going to work for him or us. The first few days were not good, as his behavior at school was terrible (thank goodness we have some wonderful teachers and administrators here). Thursday and Friday were better, but still far from where we want to be.

This weekend, we upped his dosage once more, landing on 20mg/twice a day. This is roughly half of the total dosage of Ritalin he took for the entire day, but spaced out in two doses. His behavior was actually pretty well regulated today. When I left for work at 9:15 pm, however, he was still having trouble going to sleep (insomnia can be a side effect of Adderall). Plus, he was up by 4am Sunday morning. I KNOW that will not work for us in the long run. We’ll just have to see how it goes…

to be continued…