Thursday, August 9, 2012


Observations of a serial mom:  Over the last month, I have surprised myself.  Having spent many years on this earth, I can get complacent in my day-to-day life.  However, this month has proven that I am still able to s-t-r-e-t-c-hFirst, I had to turn the helm of the family sloop over to the co-captain while I worked full-time for a week.  This may seem trivial to some, but I am an old-fashioned mom and homemaker and this is always a stretch for me.  During the week, my sickest patient did NOT die--81 with acute infection and acute renal failure--and the week went surprisingly smooth.  
The next week was what has become known in our home as "wild birthday week."  I found out I could put together 4 birthdays and all seemed to enjoy their special days.  I learned that lava cakes baked a little too long are just really good and moist chocolate cakes (sorry, Will).  I learned that making (and eating) chocolate whipped cream is something that I have been missing all these years!  I used jello to color and flavor some frosting and found out that is NOT a good idea but the KoolAid flavored frosting was actually pretty good!
My favorite (ok, 2nd favorite next to the chocolate whipped cream) was, of course, the apple crisp for the last birthday of the week.  No surprises there except when dad walked in for dinner and found out we were celebrating his birthday a few days early!
I was able to enjoy the stretching the last month has brought.  Given the challenges of the last several years, It was nice to finally have some challenges that were just plain fun.  I think I will need to weave some of these more fun challenges into the difficulties of my life.  I think I will also need to work in some more bike time to be able to only stretch and not grow!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christmas Letter 2011

Christmas 2011

I have decided that Christmas letters can be somewhat of a sham and have not sent one out for a few years (although, I do enjoy Jeff Berns’ Christmas update each year, he is a very amusing man). So, if I were to go back to writing a Christmas letter, it would reveal the true, day in and day out life that the Longprés are currently experiencing…a no holds barred, bare facts look at life. So, here it is…

Sorry this is late, but in true Longpré fashion, it is not late until the end of the month in which the holiday occurs. By the way, we celebrate “Little Christmas” or “Kings Day” on January 6, so per family rules, I am actually early!

We had a few milestones this year. In December, the 14th to be exact, I was 1 year from the day the state of Idaho declared me a “minimally sufficient parent.” This was as a result of a witch hunt by the state to justify the thousands of dollars they are pouring into the Longpré adopted children and why these “minimally affected” children are still having problems. Now, they used much bigger words, some of them not repeatable and spent many thousands of dollars taking me to court 4 or 5 times. However, I have not changed my “minimally sufficient” parenting and will continue to hold the state accountable for their heinous actions that left these children with their birth parents. By the way, the state was the only entity that felt I was not doing a good job, so kudos to the team that stood behind myself and my family…the list is too long to publish here.

Ray and I have now been married 30 years. Each year I joke and say, “I want the money from the bets that were taken at the wedding thinking I was pregnant (disproved that theory) or that it wouldn’t last.” I need to put some flooring in my new family room and the money was large. I won’t mention any names, you know who you are… But seriously, we are still plodding along, looking forward to retirement and having the house to ourselves in 10 or so years. Our church is still allowing us to have some influence. We have taken what we have learned and turned into a Special Needs Ministry. We also are kid bouncers for the kids Sunday School singing time—we try to keep them in by promising to stop our singing!

Erich moved into a home about a mile from ours—still seems to sniff out “steak” night at our home. He has a lovely wife and cute daughter, who is now 2. She is the apple of our eye, looks a lot like Carolyn did at that age, and will be a big sister in April. Erich is working his father’s dream job at the Big 5 and trying to complete his Master’s Degree in Counseling.

Carolyn, now over 21, is a dental assistant who is working as a food server at the local retirement home. She is trying to find full time employment and move out of the beehive that is home. She desires to have finished walls, less noisy upstairs neighbors, a shorter line at the bathroom and electrical outlets in her room. On the plus side, she doesn’t pay rent, insurance or a car payment, so it all evens out.

Will, 19, is looking for the perfect employment situation. He is also starting school to become a pharmacy technician. He is struggling with his mother’s poor genetics and has to deal with his health on an all too frequent basis. He too would like to move out, but living upstairs with electrical power, right across from the bathroom and having no car payment make it too difficult to leave.

Tim, 15, is in high school. He attends LifeSkills class and is currently working at the local food bank a few hours per week. If he could play video games for a living, he would be rich. He is very content to watch movies, play video games and humor his mom by sliding down the slide at the community pool. He loves to talk about cars or the latest fact filled book he has read. He lives in the room right next to Carolyn and tends to not pay attention to who he is annoying.

Hope is 10, in 5th grade and is learning how difficult being a survivor of trauma can be. She is dealing with the poor choices of the original trusted adults in her life. We continue to work with our trusted advisors to seek out the best for Hope. As she enters adolescence, she is realizing how different she is from her peers. We will continue to work on her strengths and pray for contentment in her mind.

Anna, 9, 4th grade, also struggles with the past. Her intelligence, however, is allowing her to move beyond very slowly and we have seen some progress in the last year. She endured the state’s investigation of her and me and that seemed to bring out some maturity we hadn’t seen before. She is about to surpass her 18 month older (and 2 times bigger) sister and that is not sitting well with the sister!

Benj, 8, is our biggest trial but also has the farthest journey to travel. Apparently, alcohol during pregnancy (not mine) causes “holes” in your brain. Things drain out through those holes including manners, self-control and common sense. He continues to challenge both Ray and I on a daily basis. We are blessed to have an understanding team surrounding us. He is one of the kids that is receiving benefit from the new ministry in which Ray and I are involved.

The dog, Holly (who looks like my old dog Muffy), is still alive, about 9 years old and now snores. She sleeps with Will, though, so it doesn’t bug me. She loves to play in the snow, literally scoops it up on her snout and throws it. It is a blast to watch. Other than that, she pretty much just sleeps and barks.

My dad, bless his heart, still comes to dinner three times a week. He enjoys chatting with Felicity (Erich’s 2 year old) so I sit them next to each other. They have eating contests, especially on steak night. Felicity usually wins. She really likes steak and Pop-Pop thinks she is the cutest little girl in the world!

I said my final good-bye to my dear Aunt Hilde (99) and Grandma Bernice (92) this year. Both were incredible ladies and lived lives that were, by any standard, amazing. This world is poorer, but Heaven is richer.

So, that is life at the Longpré home. Add some health problems on my part (2 MRIs and 1 surgical consult later, now waiting for 2 more appointments to decide what is the next step) and things can get interesting. On the other hand, God promised never to give us more than we can handle, but He didn’t say how close He would bring us.

May you have a blessed 2012, filled with health, job security, faith in a risen Savior and satisfaction of a life well spent. Please know that I am praying for you and look forward to updates on your life, including annual Christmas letters. But please, feel free to share the good and bad, the things that go right and the things that go wrong. Some of us need to hear that others’ lives are not perfect, just like mine!

Donna and crew

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Today marks the Ironman here in our fair part of the world. 2000+ athletes plunge into an icy cold mountain lake for a refreshing swim, then, hop on their bikes to ride the winding roads and, finally, run for a few miles to round out the experience. The competitors come for a variety of reasons—to prove they are the best, to boldly go where few have gone before, to confirm they can conquer a personal demon. The one thing they all have in common is…the finish line. All of them want to see it, to cross it, to languish in the victory that is on the other side.

What few people realize is some of us run that race every day. We start out day early--maybe not to the shot of a starter pistol—but early nonetheless. It may be a door or window alarm, an argument between kids or the sound of liquid flowing where it shouldn’t—and that is just the start. From there, it is on to the urine wars followed by room decontamination (from the afore mentioned urine) and the inevitable “I won’t eat that” for breakfast (sensory issues occur randomly!). The race continues throughout the day and includes a variety of side games including shoe dodging, poo scraping, “where’s B(7) now” and, the ever popular “which appointment am I racing to.”

Given the huge emotional needs these kids have, we must stay attune to the ever-changing moods and potentially harmful interactions. As role models and security guards, we are ever mindful of our actions, reactions and distractions. One wrong move, one step off the path, and our race turns uphill with scree and rain confounding our progress. Sometimes, it feels as if a landslide has occurred and we have no bulldozer to move the rocks. Bedtime finally rolls around, the sweetness of silence punctuated only by the thump, thump, thump of feet making their curtain calls—water, insomnia, desire to talk about their past.

The tri-athlete, by midnight, will have called it a day—either hit the finish line or hit the wall. It will be over, finished, one for the books. As for those of us parenting special needs kids, midnight does not bring the end. Instead, midnight rolls around and finds us sleeping, one ear opened to any nocturnal needs. The finish line looms in the distance, months or years away. Some of us will never get to it, never feel the victory of crossing the final line. For others, the line will not signal victory but more angst as the uncertainty of a world unprepared opens to an equally unprepared child. So, as I ache for those victories, I must adjust my focus. Perhaps it is not one finish line I should be looking for. Perhaps it is little tiny lines, some barely perceptible to the naked eye, some only visible to another walking with me.

I salute the courage of the tri-athlete, the commitment to completing a near impossible task. Bask in your personal victory. Then, pull up your bootstraps, slap on your grubbies and encourage those who can’t quite see the finish line!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How to Frame a Foster Parent

Becoming a foster parent was a life long goal of mine. My husband just went along with it. After all—Happy wife, happy life.” Our first adopted child was adorable in his inability and we have grown to recognize his uniqueness in our home and this world.

Our decision to add to our family was not difficult. After all, we had 4, one with special needs, what was 2 more? We were excited about the two little girls and tolerated that they brought their little brother with them. We were assured that they would heal together and were predicted to have a fairly normal life. They came with the label “minimally impacted by their previous environment,” which didn’t sound all that scary.

As life would happen, the three were more than 2 handfuls when it came to their behaviors. Our home quickly turned upside down with these “minimally impacted” children. So, in keeping with accepted practices, we enrolled them in counseling and other behavior programs. We kept track of them, monitored them, played with them, took them on hikes and bike rides. We built a new playroom for them, decorated their bedrooms, played games, celebrated birthdays.

However, one day, it became too much. One of the girls accused the other of inappropriate behavior. She revealed this to her counselor, obligated to call Child Protective Services. OK, this couldn’t be too bad. This will help the children get the assistance they need, right? WRONG!

We learned quickly that the system that brought the children to us with little more than a cursory explanation of their past would now turn on us and blame us for their behaviors. The healers became the hurters. We were quickly turned into the enemy and taken to court.

Long story short: We are no longer foster parents and have been warned not to allow the children’s behavior to escalate to the point where we require legal involvement. If that happens, the judge warned, the children would be removed from our home. Oh, and that help the children were going to get? As far as the state is concerned, since it is not the children with the problems (obviously, it must be the minimally sufficient parents), they must not need any help.

We have learned lessons experienced by many people greater than us—it is not if a foster parent will get sued, it is when. It takes a special person to be a foster parent—one who is willing to go to jail for the deeds done by those before them. The “system” is not in place to provide healing for hurting children.

So, how do you frame a foster parent? The answer is easy. Place kids into their home.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Few Good Women

The world lost a great person on February 20th, 2010, the last in a line of greatness, the last of a generation in my family. However, no flags will be flying at half mast, nor will there be a "laying in state." Naomi Ostien Stanley Ortendahl, aka Aunt Naomi, 92, will be laid to rest in a quiet ceremony attended by a fraction of the people she influenced in her lifetime. The emotions run high with this, bringing back memories of the not so distant death of my own mom. These two sisters, along with their 4 other siblings, contributed more to this world than anyone could understand.

The legacy of these women is not measured in worldly terms and the shoes they leave empty are going to be tough to fill. I realize only now, with the passing of Aunt Naomi, that it is up to my generation to put feet in them.

Their lives exemplified grace, passion and an unshakable faith in God. The grace I witnessed was as natural with them as walking with is to me. Life situations that I can only imagine--watching your children die before you, impossible children (ok, that I can imagine, but not I am not nearly as graceful!), family disagreements--all handled with the poise that comes through the great examples that came before them.

The passion was one for life: the good, the bad and the ugly. From the simple--a child's birthday cake--to the complex--leading a women's Bible study--to the impossible--saying goodbye to a loved one, they handled it with a joie de vivre that can only be fully appreciated with maturity and experience.

Their faith in God was a mainstay in my life. The unwavering belief that God is in control was a crutch leaned on heavily by both of them. This is not to say they were not strong, for in the leaning on God, there was strength derived from Him that increased their faith. It was the type of circle envied by some, misunderstood by others. It was a circle that enclosed them in a tight, comforting embrace that reassured them of their loving Savior. It was the circle from which they witnessed to the thousands of family, friends and strangers who walk across their life paths. It was from this circle they dealt with life's issues and trials. It was this circle that opened to accept all that was given them with humility and trust in God.

I will always associate several things with my Aunt. She was a "professional" cross-stitcher, making the model products for Precious Moments and inspired me, as did my Mom, to embrace that art form. She had a great cherry tree when I was growing up and I, to this day, associate anything cherry with her and relish the crop that comes off my own trees. She had a musical door pull that played when one would open her door. She had a sign, cross-stitched I believe, that said, "Kwitcherbellyachin." It took me a couple of years to get that one!

My Mom was generous to the end. We had just brought home three new kids and the oldest wanted a doll (as is typical with foster children, she came with very few items and none of the usual little girl toys). When Mom finally awakened somewhat from her surgery, she made sure my dad would fulfill that desire if she couldn't. That was the last request she would make and one I cherish. Her life was dedicated to children and she was Mom-mom to numerous children over her lifetime. She had a kitchen plaque that was perfect for her: "Come into the kitchen and chat with me, While I prepare a pot of tea." She was always ready for a friend.

So, the memories linger, getting better with age, and the life lessons have been taught. It is now up to me to carry on their legacy of grace, passion and faith in God, to those in my life path. It is a burden taken on with a heavy heart, yet one that was inevitable. It is time for me, the next generation, to take the life lessons given and pass them on the best way I know how. It is time to become one of the "Few Good Women."

In heaven, where Mom and Aunt Naomi are rejoicing and praising their Lord and Savior, there is no sorrow, only joy. I wish I could say that about here on earth. I miss both of them in many ways, but, because of their example, will once again, see them in heaven. I grieve for the loss of their influence, their enthusiasm, their encouragement, their wisdom. I rejoice for their new life, free of pain and grief, reunited with their loved ones. I realize that their lives and their accomplishments are not of this world but of eternity.

So, there is no flag remembrance, no news crew, no motorcade signaling the end of a life well lived. For now, I shall be content in the memories and know that the measure of my life will be celebrated where it counts--in heaven. I will remember Mom and Aunt Naomi every time I see one of their cross stitched works of art, teach a Bible study or eat cherry pie! I will cherish the lessons learned and endeavor to pass them to next generation. In this way, their lives on this earth will continue to be ones of influence, of purpose, of eternal value. I will cherish my time spent at the feet of these good women. I will strive to become a woman worthy of their legacy.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Stunned, Not Dead, Dear In the Back Seat

If you have ever heard the "Stunned, Not Dead" deer 911 call, you can imagine that it would not be fun to experience an animal waking up in your car and shredding both you and the car. Well, imagine that the dear is a child who does not like you, all,...not one bit,...and she is not afraid of you either!

Living with slightly demented kids is like this every ride. I have been on the freeway, on the way to the psychologist who was helping with the kids, when A(7) decided she did NOT want to be in the car with me. In a small car, there are NO (legal) places to hide a child. She was unfortunately seated behind me and, between her long legs and mine, the back of the seat was well within her reach. I spent 45 minutes enjoying the jarring action of a then 5 year old kicking my seat. I have no idea how she kept it up the steady, hard rock beat the whole time, but she managed. It was much like having van Halen in your car only much less talent!

Life with these kids is like that every day. We deal on a continual basis with their desire to rid themselves of our family in any way possible. As we contemplate taking a vacation (something we have not done for 3 years), I remember that 45 min trip and think, "This is so not worth it."

Life will get better and some day, our family will once again enjoy the family bonding experience that is vacation. However, in order to that, the dear will have to be either domesticated or left home in the wild.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Never Put Green M&Ms in Your Pocket on a Hot Day

BoldDealing with children's mental health issues can be challenging. Most recently, our 5 year old boydecided to push the limits of our parenting abilities by hittint us with a double whammy--cutting himself with a knife and running away on the same day. He chose to run away from the counselor's office so she was obliged to call the police.

Because I knew it was going to be a tough session with the counselor that day (the appointment was between the cutting and running), I picked up some "reward" candy from the dispenser. It was M&Ms. I put them in my pocket for incentive during the session. The culprit candy was still in my pocket when the escaped ensued.

The day was hot--80 plus degrees--in our beautiful, mountainous area. I was pursuing him and he was finally stopped. We sat on the curb with the fire fighters who helped corral him, waiting for the police to arrive. After a brief talk, we headed back to retrieve the other children from the counselor's office.

It was at that time I reached into my pocket to get a tissue and, instead, felt something sticky. It was the green M&M, now permanently attached to the inside of my shorts' pocket. Needless to say, the M&M was lost and B(5) ended up at the "behavioral" hospital for 2.5 weeks. The M&M lesson was, by far, the easiest of the two lessons that day.