School Struggle Bus

This school year has been hard on everyone. My kids are all at home right now, attending school via some very old and unreliable Chromebooks that our district gave us. I hear that is more than some children in other districts got, so I guess I should be grateful for that? If I’m being completely real though, and this is the only space I can, I find it hard to believe that the wealthiest country in the world can’t do better for all of us.

Our school district has chosen to have on site child care for families who need it most. I think we can do this safely…if all the staff follow the health and safety guidelines written by the Nursing staff that the district pays quite a pretty penny to employ. That hasn’t happened yet. I have never felt more unsure about my career choice in life. I have never, ever questioned my choice to become a nurse. Now though, as science denial rears its ugly head and I see some of the most callous behavior in regards to public health that I have in my life, I spend nearly every day questioning it.

Why am I even here? I would be of more use in an ER or an ICU right now. It is hard to sit here as our COVID numbers rise, and not contemplate quitting every single day. “Pull your mask up, please. Over your nose, please.” And I’m saying this to ADULTS. The children would do it if the adults would model it. But one person asking this of them while the people with them all day don’t do it, is going to have every little impact. There are schools with no Nurse, that isn’t right either, but this is unsustainable. I’m not sure I can keep going.

Two years ago, with so much hope, I interviewed for this job and chose it because I hoped to effect change against the cycle of harm that my children had endured in our local public schools. Now, every single day, I wonder if I am contributing to that cycle of harm. The vast majority of the children attending our child care program, where we are struggling to follow health and safety guidelines, live in poverty. Some of them lack health care. Now they’re in a situation where their chances of contracting the virus are exponentially higher. Even if they recover quickly, will their family members? What if they’re cared for by their grandparent? How will that person be impacted? All of these thoughts scroll through my head daily. Sometimes, overnight, they scroll through hourly.

Joe is in his first year of teaching at the same school. I don’t want to dampen his joy. He’s really good at this, and he really loves it. My killing that Joe would be absolutely awful. So, I’m working through the chain of command, trying to explain why this is so dangerous. So far, I’m met with a whole lot of shoulder shrugging. No one is quite sure what to do. Staffing is rough. No one wants to do this job. They’ll want to do it even less if they have a letter of discipline in their file. While I also understand that, this is worth it.

We can’t lose a life to this recklessness.

–FullPlateMom, who is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Quarantine Chronicles

Here we all are, still staying home (you are, right? Please tell me you are?). This was the view from where I am. Well, it was a few days ago. Spring has sprung on what was supposed to be an uneventful, exciting school year.

Ally and I returned from Paris, and we all went back to school. FPD and I work in the same elementary school now. He is a Bilingual Resource Specialist (BRS), bringing his Spanish language skills to our school’s front office. He’s there half days and then goes to pick up the kids from their various schools. Well, he did, right up until mid-March, when life ground to a halt that even I, as the School Nurse, didn’t predict.

Now, here we are, all of us, at home. The other half of both of our jobs, his hospital interpreting gig, and my early childhood centers, no longer able to pay us, are at risk. We are hanging on, but we are in a space, yet again, where I could never have imagined this stress for our family. We have had life-changing, stressful moments before for sure. This is one for the record books too. We are a family of 14, 4 of us in the category defined as ‘high risk’, all staying at home as much as humanly possible.

Food has been hard to come by. All the supply chains are stressed in our area, and all others, I’m sure. Toilet paper was an issue. We figured it out, but for the first time, we had to access our local food pantries. We have had to do this more because we couldn’t buy enough food to feed the kids. Limits in our local grocery stores made this impossible without going store to store and exposing ourselves multiple times, and possibly bringing home the virus to Tess, Gigi, and Isabel.

As we transitioned to virtual learning, we all struggled. Joe and I are supporting the elementary school we serve while also supporting our own 12 children. The older 7 are relatively independent in their learning, but their mental health is a concern. We have had children who have struggled significantly with PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety. Everything is heightened right now. We had to transition to virtual therapy sessions, some as many as 3 times/week to keep kids out of the hospital for mental health crises. The younger 5 all have a varied level of independence, from being able to do it on their own, to needing monitoring to make sure they don’t wander onto YouTube, to needing someone right beside them to navigate the learning platforms. We have two kids who are Deaf. That presents an extra barrier to access that requires a ton of creativity and a whole lot of advocacy.

When school closed, there was a three week transition before virtual learning officially began. We didn’t miss a day, not because I am that concerned about their academics, but because the routine is vital. They needed a schedule. That has saved us.

These most basic of needs, food and routine, were made possible by our village. So many people rallied for us. Toilet paper got dropped off on our front porch. People sent gift cards. Other parents and co-workers texted us locations that had milk in stock. Friends of friends reached out to people they knew who are working in the grocery supply chain so that we could order food above the limits. Farmers who were dumping their milk are delivering it to our house now. Friends and co-workers emptied their chest freezers and dropped off ham, jarred food, and other frozen goodies they had stored away.

The teachers that teach our kids, and those we just know through work, helped us keep our littles entertained and distracted with awesome learning tools that were dropped off on our porch, or with online resources that were shared with us. I wouldn’t have made it through those three weeks without you. Working and educating the kids all while staying home is no joke. It has caused so much stress for Joe and I.

As our local school district launched virtual learning, and we are now three weeks into that, there is a new routine, and I have the capacity to plan some fun things for the kids again. Tess requested ‘Fun Friday.’ We end school a little early each Friday and do something together as a family. This week we had a popcorn party.

Saturdays are now themed. We launched this with Disney Day, last Saturday. I can’t wait to upload pictures of that to the blog. Today, we are having ‘Maker Day.’ Gigi and Isa have ‘Fab Lab’ at their school. It is a space filled with every day objects that the kids can re-purpose into their very own creations. They miss ‘Fab Lab’. So, today is all about bringing Fab Lab to us. I will make sure to document this as well.

I hope you all are home, healthy and staying safe. As always, if you are a parent in crisis, and in need of mental health resources, or just someone to talk to, please reach out. We are all in this together.


I attended Refresh Chicago this weekend.  I had been planning this for months.  It has been on my calendar since March.  I barely made it.  Joe and I had a HUGE fight.  The kid in our home who struggles the most with attachment chose the week of the conference to have a week of meltdowns.  This isn’t atypical once we get into the swing of school.  She begins to feel safe and she lets her trauma flag fly.  Still, this week though?!? NO!

I missed Friday morning’s session.  I almost didn’t get in the car.  Then a friend messaged me, “We don’t care how late you are, JUST COME!”  So, I dried my tears, loaded up my janky, old SUV, and headed out.  I enjoyed three blissful hours in the car, three hours to myself to laugh at podcasts, cry at Tom Petty songs, and to just be alone.

I made it for lunch, for the afternoon breakout sessions, and then for the Friday night general session.  Refresh is a religious conference.  While religion is painful for me, faith isn’t.  Faith is strength in this home.  In fact, there are times when it’s all I’ve got to go on, faith that it will get better.  Friday night’s general session wasn’t about getting through it though.  It was a night to let go of it.  A message about faith and about letting go of what is burdening us.

The Refresh leaders gave us each a Sharpie marker and a balloon (never fear, both the balloon and the string are specially crafter biodegradable materials, I didn’t even have to ask, they offered that info up, because they know their crowd).  They asked us to write out the things that were burdening us the very most.  I took a pic of my balloon.

But, this picture is a lie.  I’m going to own that right now.  My balloon was full of so many other burdens.  I should have taken pictures of those words too.  I had a moment of fear about being quite so open though.  My daughter is waiting too long, that’s true.  That is a huge burden, but it’s a more acceptable burden, because that isn’t within my control.  I worry every single day that Isabel will die before we can get there, that she will die without ever having a family.

There were other burdens on this balloon though…

“My marriage is a mess right now.”

“I have a child who HATES me.  She might never know secure attachment.”

“I can’t support all the teachers who work for me the way they need to be supported.”

“People hate me for using public resources for my children.”

“There is never enough money.”

“I don’t do enough to fight racism, homophobia and xenophobia to make up for the fact that I was blind to it for too long.”

“I’m fat and ugly.  I don’t take care of myself well enough.”

“I am not enough.”

I didn’t take a picture of any of those words, because, “I am scared” was also written on that balloon.  I am scared.  That might be the biggest burden of them all.  I live in fear of never being enough for all the people who depend on me.  I drive myself into the ground trying to help everyone else before I help myself.  I’m going to do better.  I have to do better.

I have to let all of that go.  I did that this weekend.  It is my prayer that you will read this and let this go as well, because there was another take away this message this weekend.

You’re not alone, and neither am I.

–FullPlateMom, who is here if you need to let go of something, and who hopes to see you at Refresh next year.  Let’s make our ‘me too!’ group the largest EVER.


Click Click.

First, I just have to tell you this story.  It’s totally unrelated to anything I’m about to write about, but it just happened and it is SO indicative of what life is like around here that it simply must be shared.  The big kids are out of the house right now at various activities, FPD has the baby in a baby pack and is taking advantage of some unseasonably warm weather to take her and the dog for a hike (Dolly is an outdoor enthusiast for SURE), and the three other “littles” (Giganto, Bubbly and the Diva) are all coloring nicely.  For a moment, just a nanosecond, just a breath of time, there was a lull in this house, a pause in conversation and chaos if you will.  Y’all for a moment, the decibel level dropped to that of a normal household.  Well, at least it did until Giganto shouts out “THE QUIET IN HERE IS FA-REAKIN’ ME OUT!!!”  It must have been freaking the rest of the kids out too, because end of lull, and back to the decibel level of a regular-sized insane asylum.  Yeah, that’s what life is like around here, in a house where quiet FA-REAKS the “residents” out.  

I have been writing on this blog for over three years now.  It started as a means to journal the kids milestones because the children were growing in numbers and scrapbooking all their baby books was never going to happen.  I also thought it would be a great way to document all those ‘medical missions’ I was going to take.  Yeah, those medical missions turned into adoptions that rocked our world, in the best of ways, of course.

Suddenly, people started reading this blog, because our lives are like a circus.  I get that.  I watch reality television occasionally as well.  We are a little like Jon and Kate, but without the philandering and quite as much screaming.  I’m not perfect either, and surprisingly, people liked hearing that I’m not.  I was surprised at how many emails I got telling me they liked how honest I was about our lives, because somehow they perceived me as overly perfect.

Let me tell you right now, I’m not.  Someday, I’ll write a post about all the ways I’m not.  For now, I’m still gathering my courage to do this.

Then I started to get emails from people asking me to help them on their journey to adopt.  Could I point them in the direction of how we did it so many times? Could I tell them which agency we used?  Could I tell them what it’s like to parent a large family, or an inter-racial family?  I don’t mind those questions, when they’re phrased respectfully, of course.  In fact, I like it.  I like lending my experience and I love when a resource I’ve pointed someone to brings a child into their home.  So, this blog became a resource for adoption.

Then I started to get emails about the road we walked with Bubbly.  People wanted to know what we did.  How did we reconnect her little pathways and begin the process of healing her little heart?  I liked telling people what I’ve learned from that road, because I’ve learned so very much.

Last year, I started to get emails from individuals and organizations who wanted me to either review their wonderful products, post about ways they were helping, or link to their organization for donations.  Some of these folks are now listed in the sidebar of my blogs.  Some of them are going to start giving me free stuff to review products.  Some of these people are give me money every time you click on a link in the sidebar.

Here’s my issue.  FPD and I do fine.  Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t rich by any means.  We won’t be anyone’s 1% anytime soon.  You know what though?  I’m happy with that.  Happier then I’ve ever been, in fact.  For now, we’re blessed enough to have jobs that provide us with enough and allow us to do some fun stuff too (yay Disney World!!!).  We also have health insurance, which is of the utmost importance right now.  So, I had to make a decision.  What kinds of things would I be willing to review and what would I do with the money from your click clicking?

Here’s the answer I came up with after many, many hours of thought.  I’m only going to post about products that are for a purpose, and as for the money, FPD and I are going to give it right back.  Are you fundraising for an older/special needs adoption?  Are you an organization that needs some free advertising?  Do you have a cause that really touches your heart?  Email me.  We’ll put your badge in the side bar, I’ll post about you, and maybe, we’ll donate our click click fund to you.

Here’s the catch, you’ve got to be legit.  Once bitten, twice shy on donations.  I want causes that are active, on the ground, making lasting changes.  And, if you’re fundraising for an adoption and you decide to back out, I need to know that the money is going to stay in a fund attached to the child you were previously adopting.  How does one do that?  Through a Family in the Gap (FIG) Fund through an organization like Project Hopeful.  I know, I sound like a hard a**.  I am when it comes to this though.  Sorry.  I want to see a lasting change, and I ended up unknowingly hurting the kids that I tried to help in Ghana, including my own daughter.

That said, please go and click click.  We love increased traffic, it will only mean more money going to causes we all love.

who is excited about major clickage.

I Slept Through This Part Of Anatomy & Physiology…

I don’t talk a whole lot about my bread & butter.  I’m a working mom.  Did y’all know that? Hmmm, maybe not.  I am.  My jobs don’t have a whole lot to do with my kids (well, they have a whole lot to do with kids, just not mine).  Besides being a mom, which is full-time in and of itself, I also own two child care centers and work for a group of four lovely pediatricians (I’m not kidding, they’re wonderful women, if you’re in my area and you need really GREAT pediatric care, just email me).

So, I’m a pediatric nurse, which must make me abundantly qualified to care for a child with a complex congenital heart defect like our little Dolly’s.

Yeah, not so much.

You see, when I was in nursing school, I had ZERO interest in anything to do with Cardiology.  It scared me.  I did a rotation through a Cardiac step-down unit and there were a couple of older guys there waiting for new tickers.  They were on an intermediate care unit because they were hooked up to what amounted to an artificial heart and couldn’t be allowed to leave the hospital.  They were bad off.  Their care was complex and their prognosis was scary.  I didn’t dig how sad the whole thing was.  I really like them though.  I still remember each and every one of their names, and their awesome wives too.

I decided right then and there that this was NOT the specialty I wanted to practice in.  So, I slept through that portion of Anatomy & Physiology y’all.  Yes, I’m confessing.  Sometimes, it was a zone out.  Sometimes, it was full-on close your eyes and drool in the huge lecture hall kind of sleep.  Don’t get me wrong, I know the basic anatomy.  I still had to take the test (FYI, I managed a ‘B’ in that course), but as for the deeper understanding of the complexities of the heart and defects associated with it, yeah, I didn’t really care.

When I began to work in pediatrics as a new nurse, the units in our hospital were divided by diagnosis. I loved Hematology & Oncology.  Give me a Leukemia diagnosis any day.  Those heart kids were on the ‘other side’.  I think I floated over there a few times, but I wasn’t assigned those kiddos.  They were for the experienced nurses.

Can you see the irony that’s about to smack me upside the head?

I am now a mom of one of those kids.  Dang.  I wish I hadn’t slept quite so soundly during those lectures.  In all honesty, FPD, the Spanish Interpreter, knew more about congenital heart defects than I did when we were reviewing Dolly’s file.  I had to get up to speed REAL quick.  Thanks to many other heart mamas out there, and a really nice Cardiothoracic Surgery NP on the other side of the country, I’m doing okay now.  I understand HeterotaxyHypoplastic Left Heart and Tricuspid Atresia.  Dolly doesn’t have any of those.  She has two separate congenital heart defects that are each fatal in their own right if not corrected.

The more I research, the more I realize how much of a miracle she is.  

Here is a good image of a normal heart next to Dolly’s heart.

According to Dolly’s echocardiogram (an ultrasound of her heart), her aorta and pulmonary artery are backwards.  Her aorta is supposed to have oxygenated blood in it.  Instead it has de-oxygenated blood in it.  Uh oh.  This usually makes kids blue.  She’s not blue though, why is that?  
She has an open Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) between her aorta and Pulmonary Artery.  This is supposed to close at an infant’s first breath.  If Dolly’s had closed, she would be dead.  Pretty amazing that it stayed open.  It has kept her alive.  It is causing her lungs to work harder to keep her body supplied with Oxygen though, so we don’t know how much damage has been done to her lungs.  If too much damage has been done, we won’t be able to fix her at all.  Scary.  

That’s not all that our Dolly is facing though.  If we go back to the other picture, the one of her backwards greater arteries, you’ll be able to see her second issue.  

Do you see that red ‘x’ that I drew?  Yeah, that pink part (the ventricular septum) is the wall between the ventricles of the heart.  The ventricles are basically the pumpers of the heart.  They pump the oxygenated blood to all the other important parts.  Dolly doesn’t have that little pink part.  Instead of having two pumpers (ventricles),  she has one.


As scared as I am though, I’m thankful everyday for the fact that she has just the right combination of defects to keep her alive until I can get to her.  It’s not that I don’t worry about her and all the things that could go wrong, it’s just that I’m a glass half full kind of gal, and knowing what a miracle her little broken heart is makes me feel better, like maybe someone is watching out for her.  Someone has a plan for her.  I know exactly who that someone is.

who hopes you didn’t sleep through her lecture.  You never know when the irony will slap you upside the head.