The Darn Red Cup

This morning we went to speech, then the bus stop then I left to head to the exchange for a winter coat because…OH MY WORD…these 7-8:30 soccer practices are cold. I almost never stop at Starbucks. The rushed morning and staying up for Talking Dead last night and…well, a sign for a salted caramel latte seemed to be calling my name. There was a huge line. Oh well, the commissary can wait. I opened Facebook on my phone for the first time this morning. What the what? All I saw was red cup this and red cup that. I’m all, where’s the party? You know, because “Red Solo Cup…I lift you up.” I had to google it.

So I googled it. I told you it was a long line. There is some sort of controversy with the Starbucks red Christmas cup. I looked up. Oh, all the cups are red today. Then mine came. It was a beautifully simple design. Yes, I worked with multiple graphic artists. I appreciated it. I love red. The ombre effect was clever. Red screams of Christmas. The Starbucks logo is in the middle. What’s the problem? Oh. I get it. It doesn’t write out Merry Freaking Christmas on the cup. 

So I looked into what Starbucks wanted to say with their design. Starbucks said they wanted it be simple. They wanted it to relate to everyone’s story. The designer’s were inspired by the fact that lots of people doodle on their white cups. Ok. I get it. They’re being politically correct. Honestly, call me lame but this bright red cup makes me thing of Christmas far more than snowflakes do. 

I didn’t remember seeing a cross on any Starbucks cups in the past so I googled that too. 

Here’s last year’s cup.

Yeah. That looks like those trees on the north shore in Hawaii to me. 

The 2013 cup had ornaments.

So I dug a little deeper. These cups have been around since about 1997. A new one is unveiled each year. The theme usually focuses on snowmen, ornaments and reindeer. 

Let me digress. As I was standing in the line googling what the problem was, I looked around. There were moms with toddlers, businessmen ready to get on with their day, a couple of service members. The diversity in that line, in a Starbucks on base was huge. Now, if I wanted to, how many people could I reach out to while I waited in that line. I put my phone back in my bag and started talking to the gentleman behind me. I told a mom how sweet her daughter was. I tried to look around and notice if anyone needed anything. Everyone looked pretty happy to me. 

As I walked my car I thought what if we would just go to Starbucks and be nice. Wouldn’t that go further than complaining about the war on Christmas? Here’s something else to think about.

Stop yelling about what companies are doing and start doing! If Christians were acting like Jesus we would be filling each other’s cups instead of complaining about the color of a commercial one. 

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There is so much for me to say about what is happening with our family right now. The list is long. None of it compares to what is happening to dear friends. 

My dad worked for Randal Wilson as a property appraiser. I happen to know that Randal was more than a boss for him. He was a friend, a confidant, and so much more. In some of my Dad’s darker moments, Randal was there for him. 

Last night mom called to tell me that Randal is missing. You can read the story here

This is Randal and his wife, Lana.

His last known whereabouts were on 464 close to Mom’s. I’m quite certain most people in my hometown already know about this because the search has been ongoing for more than 24 hours. I can’t really think or write about anything else right now. 

My prayers are with the Wilson family. If you have a second, please pray for the family for their peace, for Randal’s safety and that he is found soon.

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A Southern Living Adventure With Grandma

This morning the kiddos got on buses and Grandma and I headed out on a new adventure down a road less traveled. A long, long roundabout road but that’s all part of the story.    
 There is no place that I would rather be than on an adventure with my mom on this beautiful fall day. Wait, maybe an adventure in Hawaii but I’m limited to the mainland so a quick trip down the road to Charlottesville it is! We were ready to go. We even stopped to take a selfie.


We’re fun like that!

Before I really get started, I need to tell you what I did a couple of days ago. Coming back from the bus stop, I didn’t stop the door. Well, I did stop the door, just with my ankle caught between the stop and the door. It left me with a fun little boo boo. 


I know how to have a good time I tell you. I’m sorry for the blurry gory details but it’s important to the story. That top line there is a pretty decent open wound. My sock got stuck to it yesterday. So today I had the brilliant idea to just wear my slippers. I mean slippers. They aren’t my Hawaii slippahs. They are house shoes, moccasins on a good day. They cost me all of $4 from the clearance rack at Target and truth be told, probably slightly horrified my mother. More on my house shoes later…

Our plan today was to drive to Southern Living Idea House. I put the address in my GPS. My GPS couldn’t find it. I put it in my phone. My phone basically gave the “I think it’s here but I don’t have the official address is this okay with you?” I said sure and off we went. Mom had no idea where she was going. Food was supposed to be part of the deal but I was hell bent on getting to that house in time to see it and get back before that big yellow hound with my precious children topped the hill. We finally get off the highway. I follow the directions and turn this way and that. Mom said, “Brandi, I am so impressed that you can do this.” At the same time the phone announced “You have arrived.” Except we hadn’t. Good gravy we were at a dead end behind a school built in 1953. I’m pretty sure the clown from It was sending balloon messages from the storm drain out back. 

No worries. Let’s just do that again. We took a half hour detour through Charlottesville. It is such a great little town. We cleared Charlottesville and proceeded to drive about 15 minutes past the south side toward Staunton. Basically, I was half way to Kentucky. We got to a place called Crossroads. The GPS was telling me “turn right here.” I told Mom that you could call a demon at a crossroad and make a deal with the devil. Her reply was, “This durn GPS is driving us out here to kill us.” At the same moment I was pointing to a Southern Living Idea Home sign. She turned right into, “You are just brilliant! We’re here.” 

We drove another 3 miles until we got to a building where we could purchase tickets and then we had to board a bus. There were switchbacks up some nasty hills. You actually ride almost two miles. At about a mile Mom starts in on, “Well, now they really are going to kill us.” 

In the end, we turned the corner and we made it. It is a gorgeous house.


I love the stone, and the porches, and the kitchen and the view. I wouldn’t want to live on those hills in winter but you could probably convince me to hibernate through a winter or 10 here. 

One of my favorite features was the floor. What better time to show you my shoes. 

My shoes…and the floor. There they are. The bane of my mother’s existence. Not only are they house shoes, they are sequined in a camouflage pattern. We were about five steps in the house when this sweet lady said, “Oh I just love your shoes. They are wonderful!” I smiled and said thank you. Mom couldn’t hold her laughter in. She looked that lady up and down, eyeballed her handbag. As we walked away Mom said, “I’m sure she owns every pair of Ugg shoes available and she liked your $4 slippers!” We had quite the laugh.


Let’s talk about this house…

The kitchen was my dream kitchen. The white cabinets, the light countertops with a HUGE island. 

IMG_0416.JPGThe runners on the stairs… gorgeous and kid and pet friendly. I want to replace the ugly ones in my rental right this second. That’s the problem of military life and renting. It’s never yours. Ray thinks it saves him money though. All the things I would want to do.


I loved all the porches too. Plus, look at my mother. She never meets a stranger. She told the bus driver to make sure she came back. She didn’t want to get stranded. Although…there are worse places to be stranded. She talked decor, the use of antiques and modern pieces together. I just love listening to her talk to complete strangers. She was a little mortified when I worked my way to the front of the bus line possibly cheating in front of people a smudge. The fact was, I was the youngest person in a 50 mile radius and I had kids to pick up. I did let the man with possible potty problems in line ahead of me. 

We left at 1. I knew kids would start filing in after 3:30. We were on the clock to get back. I could not find a place to stop. Mom finally said, “I was kidding when I said I’d rather see the house than eat.” We found food and hit the road again. We made it back in time to wait for the littles on the bus. 

You can access real pictures and information on Southern Living’s website here. I’ll post the rest of our pictures to my Facebook Page. The cost to tour the house is $15. If you love Southern Living as much as we do it’s worth every penny. 

I’m sure I’ll remember more of our adventures later. For now, Grandma has worn me plumb out! 

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Why I Haven’t Been Updating

As I mentioned yesterday, I got to have a nice long conversation with a family thick in the middle of their adoption process. I learned that they access the blog. Yikes. I learned we are on a list of blogs to read about how to care for a child after adoption. Double yikes! I haven’t been updating this thing. It’s one of the things I have to make time for every day. It’s cathartic. It’s my therapy. It also falls by the wayside far too often. 

Because I tell the girls all the time that circumstance is not an excuse, I’m totally going to ignore that and just take a moment and write down all the lame excuses I have for not taking time to write.

  • Virginia is beautiful but it seems a little anticlimactic after you’ve jumped off cliffs in Hawaii.
  • All three girls participated in the same thing for a few wonderful, lovely, I can’t believe I thought it was crazy years. We’ve moved from piano and soccer to saxophone and marching band, soccer and cross country. In addition there is so much homework here and required service projects. Jack’s added out of school speech therapy two days a week. I need a secretary to keep up with our schedule.
  • I’ve mentioned before, Jack has had a hard time with this transition. He seems to be settling down but we are going through a multitude of evaluations to determine treatment plans and IEPs. 
  • I have kids in three schools. Hanan leaves first and the timed exits happen over the course of two hours and fifteen minutes. That means I have one home in the very early afternoon and the others trickle in from then until almost dinner time. The time I have during the day to get things done has been condensed exponentially. Add in all the volunteer opportunities. I feel like I’ve added an extra job. 
  • Grandma is here. She keeps me giggling all day long. Bless her heart, we keep trying to find time for adventures and more importantly shopping but, as I mentioned…Things are, well, the nicest thing I can say is hectic. Since she’s been here we’ve had doctor appointments for three, speech and occupational therapy evaluations, field day, football games, band competitions, library volunteer hours, mock election day at the middle school, cross country meets, a chorus concert…I’m sure I’m forgetting something. She has had a taste of our crazy and just rolls with the punches. This is my only reasonable excuse for not blogging. I don’t get to hang out with Mom as often as I like so I’m doing my best to soak her up. Bless her heart she’s probably had her fill since she rode 3 hours with me to Norfolk and three hours back for a band competition last week.
  • Sometimes I think the only thing I want to do is whine about not being in Hawaii. It’s compounded when Bria says things like, “Mom, it’s really cold here and I miss surfing.” I do like a good whine… but the truth is I’m trying really, really hard to appreciate where I’m at. Whining never helps me find my aloha and I’m pretty desperate not to lose it.

Yesterday I wrote a little post. I noticed I felt better after I got it off my chest. You can expect more posts. There’s a lot to catch up on. First, I’m off to another evaluation for Mr. Jack. 

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My Secret Confession

So, today I revealed a dirty little secret that I’d like to share with you. Our adoption agency lists us as a source to call with questions about the adoption experience, particularly those of special needs children. The person on the other end of the phone was a little horrified. She’s been in an orphan hosting program and is choosing to adopt a child from that program. They don’t have any children. She confessed that she was worried because at first it was awkward and she wasn’t sure she even liked him. She asked if there were times when I was frustrated or annoyed with Jack or if we liked having him from the start. 

I laughed. This is what I told her. I’ve told all four of my children that I love them. I love them fiercely. I will love them past my last breath. There are times though that I really don’t like them. My kids are great. Arleigh has my dry sense of humor. Now that she’s older, she’s fun to just hang out with. Hanan is a constant melody singing, humming tune, piece of art, making my world a more beautiful place. Bria is my kindred spirit. She’s a warrior ready to take on the world. Jack keeps me laughing. He’s happy and fun. They are all too many great things to write about and then there are moments. There are tantrums. There are fights. There are tears. There is work, hard work. There are embarrassing moments and frustrating moments and moments when I seriously close my door and cry because parenting is hard. To borrow from The Talking Dead, parenting can be one big bucket of suck. 

Here’s the thing. My kids are human and humans are kind of messed up. There are moments when they don’t like me very much either. I push them. I frustrate them. I discipline them. I make them cry. They still love me though. They know that behind the push and the frustration and the discipline and the tears is a big heart that loves them fiercely. They know that on the other side of all those things are laughter and love and a safe place to fall. It takes both. 

My kids have the potential to be little Tasmanian devils wrapped in a tornado of mess leaving a trail of dirt, dust and dog hair. They can yell. They can slam doors. They lie, not often but it happens. They talk constantly. There is very little peace in my house. My agenda is shot because their world comes first. Their schedule, their school, their hunger, their tired are all put ahead of my own. Sometimes I’m selfish and I don’t want to give up that. Sometimes they are selfish little leeches and I’m sure at the breaking point being bled dry by my own creation. 

The short answer to her question is this. Yes, there are times that I don’t like Jack, Bria, Hanan or Arleigh BUT I always love them. Sometimes, in fact most of the time I get the bonus of loving to be with them too. 



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Our New Normal

I’ve been avoiding the keyboard. My fingers were getting twitchy. So, I thought I’d take a brief moment and catch you up on our new normal.

Our new normal includes pumpkin spiced everything. It includes a 10 mile race…literal race that I haven’t prepared for. That’s a lie. The only thing I’ve done to prepare is purchase a new pair of shoes to replace the ones with the giant hole in the side. Our new normal includes lots of mixed emotions from all six of us about our mainland adventures. Our new normal is attending a church with well, a different format than we are used to but we are all pretty excited about it. Our new normal is lots of things. It’s also an autism diagnosis. 

Four years ago, one of our four greatest blessings came about like this.

He was tiny. He was incredibly stinky. He was scared. He could barely walk. I remember writing that as we peeled away the layers of clothes Jack felt hollow like a baby bird. The biggest deal…he couldn’t communicate. He didn’t say anything in any language. If you are new, you can read a little bit about his adoption day here

I just looked through some of the posts I wrote in China. I’m slightly horrified now about what a state of denial I was in there. I mentioned that he said “Mama” and “Baba.” If he did, it was only repeating it. I would be months before he understood the concept of names. 

Through this blog we’ve talked about Jack’s struggle to communicate, his frustrations with not being able to express himself. We’ve had lots of things checked in an effort to help him. Through it all, he’s kept us laughing.

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He has changed so much in the last four years. On Monday I took him to a new specialist. She is a pediatric developmental specialist. Jack was put through a series of evaluations but at the end of the appointment with all the questions, I felt like I was the one being evaluated. 

At the end of the appointment I was told Jack really doesn’t seem to be on the autism spectrum. We needed to start looking at other things like his IQ and learning disabilities. I left a little relieved and very worried. Very scary things were mentioned. I knew we were just starting. 

The next morning, the doctor called me at home. She said that as she wrote the report, looked at her notes and went over some of Jack’s behavior she was rethinking her first diagnosis. So, just before the bus stop for about 45 minutes we went over the parameters again. Jack has high functioning autism. She believes that the cause of his autism was lack of stimulation, poor nutrition and basically his institutionalization. 

In all honesty, it’s a bit of relief to have a name but it’s like the gate of the road has just been opened. We all have lots of evaluations to trudge through. We have a list of therapies to try. I have a meeting at his school in the morning to decide how we can best use this information to get some of their testing started, and see what we can do to help him at school. 

I have a very dear friend who’s son was diagnosed a long time ago. This year, he’s off at an excellent university all by himself. She told me that she heard about an autism cure. She asked her son if he would want it. He said he wouldn’t because he wouldn’t be the same person without autism. I apparently need to fly right off to his college to love on him…even though he would absolutely hate me for it. 

So I’ve been engulfed in research. I’ve been chatting with old friends that have walked this road before me. I’ve prayed. We’re ready. We would still appreciate your prayers, especially tomorrow as we try to get a new IEP. It’s going to be a marathon. It’s time to train. 


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