Did You Miss Me?

So it has been an embarassingly long time since I last wrote anything for this blog.  Long enough that I owe you all an apology.  It started out simply enough - I did something I've done a million times, picked up a full water bucket for our cow.  Not sure what I did differently, but I did something nasty to my elbow - my right elbow.  I've had carpal tunnel syndrome for years from too much time writing books, and as long as I'm careful about not overdoing it, I can write, but this made it a lot harder and more painful.  It also meant that when I did wedge my arm into a comfortable position to write, the carpal became worse.

I have the general habit (I first wrote "bad habit" but it has actually worked fairly well for me over the years) of ignoring things that hurt on me and figuring they will eventually go away.  Usually they do.  This one didn't.  I finally (after ignoring it way too long) did something about it, and it is much better, but still cutting WAY into my computer time.

T. and G. the six and 18 month old we had for a couple of months this spring left at the beginning of May.  Shortly after that we had a lovely visit with my extended family, the end of the term and our annual foster parent recertification, in which I experience domestic PTSD about my housekeeping and panic that they will not only fail to recertify my but also take away the other children, and probably the livestock too due to my inadequate housekeeping ;-).

Preparing for that event takes a good week of crazy sorting and cleaning, during which I turn into a lunatic, panicked that they will look under my fridge and use that as a measure of my worth as a foster parent (yes, I know that's insane, thanks for mentioning it ;-)).  We finally survived said event a week ago last Thursday, and I had promised the children a weekend of absolute quiet, peace and doing whatever the heck we all wanted.  I promised myself that on Sunday I'd sit down and attend to my poor neglected blog.   We had a great time Thursday afternoon, a lovely morning on Friday, and at 3pm on Friday I foolishly answered a phone call, saying to my husband "Oh, it is probably too late on a Friday for them to be calling me NOW."

Ah, famous last words.  They had six children to place, ages 10, 6, 3, 3, 16 months and 2 months.  Could we take some of them?  All of them?  I being a complete raving loon said (with some considerable trepidation) yes to all six, but was told in fact that other placements would be necessary for two of them for various complicated reasons.  Originally we were supposed to get the four oldest children, but that changed over the next few complicated days in to our having D. a 10 year old girl with a minor physical disability and an amazing sense of style; Twins K. (boy) and R. (girl), both 3 1/2, sweet, loving, young for their age but wanting so much to please, and 16 month old Q. who is adorable, a solemn little girl who sees no reason why she shouldn't be able to boss the entire crew around.  Add in the normal group of kids (the biological ones - 13 year old Eli, 11 year old Simon, 9 year old Isaiah and 7 yea rold Asher) and 11 month old Baby Z. who is coming up on his first birthday and two days later, a year with us, and it makes for quite a party.  Yes, if you were counting, that's 9 children.  Yes, 13, 11, 10, 9, 7, 3, 3, 16months and 11 months.  Yes, it is a lot.

They arrived 10 days ago after a very traumatic beginning, and are really settling in.  It is a huge adjustment, even though we're accustomed to doing adjustments - we have yet to get into a routine - mostly because of the "beginning of the placement crazies."  This is my term for the stuff that goes on with new placements and makes the first few weeks really frustrating.

You see,  all foster kids have to have doctor's visits, one within the first 48 hours, and often multiple ones if there are health issues.  They have weekly visits with parents.  They have meetings for the people working together to help them.  If they attend school we have to drive them for a week or two until the busing is set up - and they stay in their old districts (which is great!), so it can be quite a drive (we currently driving 4 hours EVERY SCHOOL DAY to do two round trips for D. to keep her in school - fortunately last week was short and the buses will be set up by Wednesday!)  They have to be registered for programs, have things like early intervention transferred over, arrange for new therapy appointments.  They need to go to dentists, eye doctors and specialists.  They need clothes, shoes and for someone to come to the parent-teacher conference.  They need...well...everything.

At the same time, what the kids and parents really need most is stability, routine and to stay home for a while.  Home so everyone can learn the rules. Home so people can get the rest and down time they need - both traumatized kids and exhausted foster parents.  Home so the kids can build sibling friendships.  Home so you can get used to all the new stuff. Home so there's time for just talking about stuff, or teaching colors or doing hair or singing the itsy bitsy spider.  We're working on it, but not there yet.

This one looks to be a longer term placement, so we also need time just to get organized - we are set up generally to foster, but we never know how it will work.  A brother and sister, 9 and 8 who won't want to be anywhere near each other, much less in the same room?  Or three little ones who need to be in sight of one another.  Will we need the dolls or the Lemony Snicket books, the fisher price people and the silkies or the Monopoly set  - or all of the above.

With four under four (Z. 11 mos, Q. 16 mos, K. 3 and R. 3...and yes, I had noticed that our kids' names begin with all the high scoring scrabble tiles ;-)), we are working on setting up our lives for little people again - and adding in strollers and carriers and things we'd mostly let slide (yes, that's TWO double strollers I'm going to need).    Adding in a pre-teen girl (she'll be 11 shortly) also has its challenges.  Still, we're mostly enjoying ourselves, and settling in fairly comfortably.

The garden is in rough shape here (didn't help that we lost most of what I HAD planted to frost last week), everything is running behind, and we are eating way too many quickie meals. I haven't put up more than a couple of quarts of rhubarb - but the truth is that we'll get back into a flow, as we always have before.  I'm not worrying too much - I feel guiltier about neglecting you all, but the truth is that right this moment, the kids need me more.

So that's the story here.  Yes, btw, I do know my old site is gone.  And no, you can't get any loans from me from Singapore or anywhere else - all my cash is tied up in shoes for four more kids and double strollers.

More soon - I hope!  Meanwhile, how are YOU??

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Wow. Having the sharonastyk blog site go away is probably a blessing for you. Although we will miss it greatly.

Best wishes for a great settling in, for getting your garden in, and for lots of love at your home!

By Julie Ritter (not verified) on 03 Jun 2013 #permalink

Missing your writing, but glad for the important work going on over there.
Keeping up -- more or less -- with independence days reports to myself, because they were useful.
Working on buying a small piece of property; lots of research, loan applications, all of that. Since it lacks a house, we will need to build one; looking at timber frame kits (the small (under 1,200 s.f.) modest kind, not the showy monstrosity variety).
Meanwhile, working on the current home; trying out changing the garden to no-till; filling rain barrels; nurturing starts in the (unheated, unlighted) greenhouse, sharing them with friends and family, expanding the garden. Eating the first raspberries and strawberries. Swearing I'm going to get that rhubarb in the fridge dried very, very soon. And make a batch of strawberry jam. Planning to move roses from a shady spot to a sunny one, and tuck tomatoes in around them. Last week, cut down a couple too-big-for-the-spot, likely to fall on the house trees; gave the wood to friend with woodstove. Happy friend.
Would send you tomato starts, if I weren't on the other side of the continent.
Wishing you a replacement garden, and some good quiet time with the kids.

Glad you are back! Love to read about your adventures with all those foster kids. Here in the Midwest, rain and chill to prevent us from getting in the garden, but the rhubarb is looking good - hope to find some time tomorrow to make a delicious crisp.

I was worried. Have you considered using dictation software? At our age (we are similar), ignoring that hurt can make them hurt to the point in incapacitation. Make sure to keep your wrists straight. Ergonomics matter. It's OK to have short updates, but let us know your still alive. I still don't know how you manage to do so much.

By jlpicard2 (not verified) on 03 Jun 2013 #permalink

For the life of me, I can't see how you have time to do any gardening or blogging at this point at all. Wow!

By Stephen B. (not verified) on 03 Jun 2013 #permalink

I echo Stephen's comment. Wow!
Wish I could send my lovely teenage daughters over to babysit for you. They would love it!

Oh Sharon! Thanks for the update, now go take a nap. :)
In my garden, things are growing and I have about 30 tomato plants left to get into the ground, which should happen in the next day or two. Our front yard is getting four more raised beds this year, which will accomodate some, and the rest will have to go into 2 gal. pots.
Wishing you some time in your garden and an elbow on the mend.

Was becoming very worried about you. Glad to see you still alive :) Good luck with the elbow - I have the same thing and it is coming right but I certainly don't have your workload - don't know how you do it!!!

We got a permaculture makeover which was great but it is winter here so not much growth to report yet.

viv in nz

By knutty knitter (not verified) on 03 Jun 2013 #permalink

of course I missed you--and worried that you had had an on-farm accident or??? I hope it buoys your spirit to see how many people care about you. next time life happens, please write a one-liner to let your blog family know you are ok.

So you have a MUCH better excuse for not having your garden humming along than do I and my family. We finally got some squash down yesterday. It has been a very cool, very wet spring in my mid-western state. Thankfully so far we have fruit growing. I am very happy about that as last year the only fruit to survive the freeze thaw cycle and then the drought were the grapes. We have a ton of Rhubarb to put up. Just need children to go pick and chop it. :) I hope the routine gets worked out soon. Take care and give the little ones hugs from me.

I have missed you and have been wondering how things were going--thanks so much for the update!! Sounds kind of like crazytown as usual, but a good happy and loud kind of crazy! :)

Haha, I figured you knew about your site being gone--I was wondering if you have an archive of all that amazing information still available somewhere, I had so many things bookmarked and would love to see them again!

The farm here in CT was absolutely decimated by hail and rain--so sad, but hopefully we will do okay, we jsut transplanted more tomatoes and peppers from another farm that didn't get hit as hard.

Oh, and since when do you have a cow? Is that new?

I'm glad you're back, and will have to figure out how to pull up parts of your old site for reference.

I've got a solid garden going this spring; I managed to nurse my tomatoes and peppers through our recent frosts with floating row covers and old sheets, and thanks to laziness I hadn't planted any other frost sensitive things yet. I've gotten those out now, and for once my vegetable garden is pretty much on schedule (for some reason cucumbers aren't germinating this year, but such is life). Everything else is happy, especially since half the beds got about 4 inches of aged horse manure this spring.

I've also added a herb garden outside the fenced in electric space, which is coming along nicely. Tonight's project is to start on the landscaping around the house, which is going to feature a number of medicinal plants (I've got plans for valerian, marshmallow, calendula, lavender, echinacea, chamomile, and arnica in various parts of the yard, as long as the deer don't eat them).

Wow! you are one busy lady. here in the UK we've had the coldest spring for 50 years, so spring planting needed to happen about a month later than usual which means I actually had time to dig the whole allotment over for the first time ever. Growing heritage potatoes again (salad blue and highland burgundy) because they seem to be more robust than the usual varieties and hopi blue corn because it copes better with short wet growing seasons than ordinary sweetcorn. Surely this is the year for you to sow green manure over your entire vege garden and shop from the farmers market instead? More power to your elbow looking after all those children. you should have an awesome summer!!

What an adventure, Sharon. I missed you, and am glad you're ok ( if crazy).

We are having a warmish start to winter in Sydney, with mutterings about recession ( though Australia's economy is still in good shape).

Glad you are healing! I do miss the old site and am especially concerned about the references that a couple of your books mention can be found there (or could have been but no longer can be found there). Are you going to get them onto this site somehow?

Here in St. Louis, we experienced being near the edge of the 32 mile long tornado that happened in the metro area on the same day as the El Reno tornado in OK (May 31). Fortunately our tornado was EF-0 to EF-1 on most of its path, including the portion nearest us, with a few small spots of EF-2 to EF-3 damage. Only 2 minor injuries resulted from it, fortunately. On our street lots of tree limbs were thrown around on yards, roofs, and electrical lines. No damage to our house (or any others that I know of) and not so many limbs on our yard, at least. We had no electrical service for most of three days but thanks to our preparations over the years it was OK.

Otherwise, 2013 is very different from 2012. 2013 has brought cooler and rainier than normal weather to us. My garden is looking really good and the strawberries have been excellent this year! I still have the beans, corn, and squash to plant this month.

I am missing your posts, but have been working my way through your old blog from the very beginning. I still have several years to go, and I really enjoy your old posts.

I quite understand that what you are doing, giving kids some love and a better chance in life, is far more important right now and you have my respect. Though I consider you completely insane to offer your home and lives up for 6 new children!

My parents fostered when I was a kid. It would be nice to find out if it made a difference to the kids who joined our family, but you lose touch once they move on. When you have a bigger bunch of kids they seem to entertain each other, but don't let that fool you into feeling that they need any less of your love and attention.

I have been rereading Depletion and Abundance having gotten myself involved with Transition Humboldt recently and find myself getting annoyed with direction it was taking and remember your "church model" So yes, I must have missed you because I had to do a google search to find the blog. but then I also missed Kathy McMahon too. I think the reality of transition is definitely harder than reading blogs

I am a new reader, just referred by a longtime reader. We are just entering the process of becoming foster parents, and it is really helpful to read your stories. I think I will be coming here a lot! Thank you so much for sharing. I am also a yoga teacher, and there are some things you can do to clear carpal tunnel. If I get some time in the next week, I will send you a video to show you.

By Kendra Hodgson (not verified) on 10 Jun 2013 #permalink

Hey, thanks for the update! Missed you, but wasn't too worried about you. And that's because you are one of the strongest, most capable people I have ever known.

Gardening, ducking, making music when I can.

Oh, and I need to can when I can, soon.

. I was concerned, but also figured that you were probably busy either with the farm, writing, or a new group of foster kids. Guess the answer is "all of the above, and then some."The kids need you more than your readers, but we'll be right here when you have a chance to duck back and update us.

Oui, Madame!! I would take a word a day from you and enjoy it tremendously!!! A house filled with love and healing grows on us all.

Merely wanna comment on few general things, The internet site design is perfect, the content material is really fantastic. "Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it." by Andre Gide.

By 手機套 (not verified) on 14 Jun 2013 #permalink

Yes, we missed you, and thanks for confirming ALL my expectations: "Bet she's hurt herself", and "bet she's taken on another 10 kids or so."

Another friend of mine was whining on Facebook about her increasing blooper rates, which elicited this comment from me, which I think is relevant here, also: "Been there. Done that. Spilled coffee on the t-shirt."

Sweetie, the elbow thing? Its peri menopause. I had the same thing, blamed it on RSI, tennis elbow, sprain, Ross River Fever etc etc and then stumbled onto some material describing these joint aches, especially mentioning elbows in relationship to hormone shifts.

Does that help or just depress you more?

By Lori Scott (not verified) on 14 Jun 2013 #permalink

wow, you make my life sound sane. We are working on #7, have a 14 with autism, a 12 who needs to be kept busy, a 10 with spinal bifida, an 8 with mood disorders/odd, a 5 and only girl, a 2 year old who is learning how to break everything he touches and a new one due in August and a Husband working on his thesis in Psychology. We've out grown our van and have started to drive both it and the Prius just to get us all to church (or anywhere). It's awesome to know someone can take in the foster kids with love, as my family would never be able to qualify.

By Round Belly (not verified) on 26 Jun 2013 #permalink

Sharon, it's been 4 weeks again with no blog...I worry about you and all you are attempting to do.
I also miss my Sharon fix. :-)
Are you ok?

I've been searching for your old blog then stumbled on this. Glad to see you writing and a bit busy! 1st- it's great your fostering kids, bless you! 2nd- I was able to get rid of severe carpal tunnel in both hands (for which I was supposed to have surgery) with the following- did LOTS of stretching and ice several times a day, did acupuncture for a few weeks- a luxury I know but it beats surgery on both hands. I also started fish oil, about 3000 ius a day for inflammation. It worked. A good PT person could help you with stretching exercises, but I got some good ones off Youtube. You can reverse that, so good luck!

Hope you're on the mend and back blogging soon!

good to hear from you. I worry about you like I worry about my wife...a woman who takes on too much and who needs tom be reined in from time to time.Do what you can for those you love but remember to take care of number one. Think of yourself as a tractor that can do a lot of work but needs maintenance and care. Do not overwork it or you will break it.

By hugh owens (not verified) on 14 Jul 2013 #permalink

As my farmer friend would say, "its a great life if you don't weaken".

Of course I missed you Sharon!!!

Seriously, look at voice dictation software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking. RSI is nothing to mess with. My own mother was able to continue her computer work for 10 years thanks to voice operated software.

Folks, if you miss Sharon's old site, a good deal of it exists on the Wayback Machine:


Pretty much all of my "first" responses to this post, Sharon, would have echoed the above. I.don't.know.how.you.do.it!!

I'm sure there are times in your home when nothing seems to go according to plan (whether or not that turns out to be a good thing), but I suspect I would really have enjoyed growing up as one of your children. :)

Good to hear from you, and I'll take whatever you have time, strength, and inclination to post. Thank goodness for the archives in the sidebar . . . it'll be way into Winter before I can get through even a fair bit of it. And thank you Dan V, in BC for the link to the crawler. Very useful.