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#1 of 24 Old 11-14-2008, 12:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Some of you are aware that my 8yo got to visit public school for one day, as she'd been wanting to do, to see what it was like (thankfully she wasn't impressed and wants to keep homeschooling). Some of you are also aware that I recently broke contact with my mom and her family, following a visit from a social worker in which it was clear that my mom, my sister, or someone Mom had been talking to about me, reported us for educational neglect, plus threw in enough additional concerns to make the call CPS-worthy.

I've heard enough from others, to know that my mom has been ripping me apart to anyone who asks about how I'm doing and is willing to listen. She wants everyone to know how worried she is about my girls, because she thinks I'm such an inadequate mother, and am not meeting their educational needs.

I wish I'd read Toxic Parents a long time ago, and had the sense to break contact with these people well before having my own family. As it is, I at least had the sense to limit contact, and not to send our children on their own for visits. For the last few years, we've just been visiting Mom, as a family-group, about once or twice a month for about 2 hours at a time. We've occasionally seen other relatives at holidays.

Our girls have also spent a little time visiting with three of their much older cousins, who are 6, 8, and 13 years older than my oldest (so are now 14, 16, and 22). Mainly they've seen them for short visits, maybe once or twice in the summer when they've been visiting at Mom's.

Even though it doesn't seem like much contact, it has somehow been quite meaningful to my 8yo. After the social worker visit, she asked me a couple of times, "Are we really never going to see Grammy, ever again?" and I would just say something along the lines of how sorry I am that Grammy is not a safe person, because she talks about me so badly that people feel a need to call social workers and try to get us investigated, and if we keep spending time with her, she'll keep finding more bad things to say about me.

Anyhow, the night before her school-visit, dd commented that if she liked school and decided to keep going, then we could get back in touch with Grammy. And dh explained that Grammy would still not be a safe person, because she disagrees with us on so many other things, she would just start focusing on something else.

Then, yesterday, the day after her school-visit, dd asked about getting together with just her youngest cousin, the 14yo, when he comes in town this summer -- since she knows he wouldn't call CPS. I said I knew he wouldn't call -- but pointed out that he also strongly disagrees with homeschooling (as she well knows, because he's said stuff to her, and feels she's somewhat handicapped by never having been to school or daycare).

I said I didn't think he'd make a call himself -- but he is very close to her aunt, and would likely report back to her and Grammy about anything "unusual" he observed -- for instance, I'm sure he'd see it as unusual if our youngest (who will be 4 this summer) happens to still be wearing diapers.

So, I don't even see dd's cousins as safe -- not that I blame them for jumping on the bandwagon, and agreeing with their Grandma and aunt that I'm doing it all wrong, I realize they're just kids and all, but they're still not safe.

Does my attitude seems inconsistent, since I was willing to take the small risk of sending dd to public school for a day, knowing that teachers are mandated reporters, and the teacher might have seen my homeschooled child as "behind" her peers in some way ... also dd could have inadvertently said something that might send up a "red flag" if the teacher happened to be unfamiliar with natural family living.

I took that risk, because it didn't feel like a toxic situation, if that makes sense. I made sure that the school would call me, if at any point dd decided she didn't want to stay for the whole day after all. Going around my family, however, feels toxic -- mainly because these people have known me all my life, and I think they should have a better opinion of me.

But how do I reconcile my need to protect my family, with my desire to help my children go after what they want in life? My 8yo clearly wants to maintain contact with these toxic people! RU mommas -- what would you do?

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#2 of 24 Old 11-14-2008, 01:52 PM
 
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If the two situations were the same it would be inconsistent, but it's highly unlikely that the school is going to report you, or even expect to have anything to do with you at this point, and it's highly likely that your family will keep trying to make trouble for you, and have already (in a way that to my mind is unforgivable given their continuing attitude.) You can't shut yourself off from the world and limit your daughter's choices to everything that might carry risk, but it's just prudent, when you've identified a certain threat, to avoid it. So yeah, I think your decisions have been perfectly reasonable.

As to your daughter -- I'd ask for her feelings and thoughts and understanding of the situation, maybe they're not what you think they are.

It does sound as if she doesn't perceive the danger, or the depth of the betrayal. If that's true, I'd talk with her about the power CPS has, that they don't have to prove unfounded accusations to take her, at least temporarily. Maybe ask her to think about how she would feel and what she would do if one of her friends was talking badly about her behind her back, and saying things that were untrue to a punitive authority figure in order to try to force her to do what she wanted her to do? I'd ask her what she thinks you all as a family should do to protect yourselves, bring her into it so she doesn't think of it as her being a pawn in an adult game that she doesn't really understand.
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#3 of 24 Old 11-14-2008, 07:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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fourlittlebirds, thank you for helping me to clarify the issue within myself! It really is the difference between exposing ourselves to a tiny, potential risk simply by rubbing elbows with a variety of different people in the outside world -- many of whom might disagree with some of our choices, but most of whom would feel no desire to interfere, and exposing ourselves to a definite, proven risk by associating with people who have already demonstrated they'll stop at nothing in their quest for control.

When it comes to associating with the outside world in general, I think isolating ourselves is more harmful than the tiny, potential risk that someone might be interfering enough to hotline us. With my relatives, I seriously can't see any benefit that might outweigh the definite risk we would be taking.

As to communicating with dd about the risks, I'm having a hard time finding the best balance between creating unnecessary anxiety, and leaving her totally in the dark. As a full-term breastfeeding, co-sleeping mom/family, dh and I have previously explained to dd why some personal information is just personal, and doesn't need to be shared with people outside our immediate family.

I've talked a lot with dd about how children in some other cultures get to nurse as long as they want, and get to sleep with their parents, and how good dh and I feel about doing this with our own family. At the same time, I've tried to explain how our own culture is somewhat out-of-whack in childrearing views. There are actually people who would see dh and I as very bad parents for what we're doing, who would feel our children would be better off in foster care.

I've tried to balance this out by explaining that most people wouldn't go so far as to call a social worker -- most people would simply think it was weird and not understand, but simply go on about their own lives and mind their own business. But some might get concerned, and try to cause problems for our family.

Well, it's gradually become clear to me that all this talking has succeeded in making dd feel an actual compulsion to tell select people about our co-sleeping -- and when she was still nursing 3 years ago at age 5, she felt a need to bring this up to some people, just to see if they really thought it was weird.

It's almost as if she feels a need to "purge" or something, and I definitely feel I inadvertently exposed us to more risk by talking like this with dd, because I think she ended up talking more than she would've if I'd never said anything at all.

After the social worker visit 2 months ago, dd commented that she'd always thought that would be such a horrible thing to have happen -- but it was actually a lot of fun, and the social worker was so nice, she didn't seem at all like the kind of social worker who took kids away.

From what I've learned about our state, it doesn't seem like there's a tremendous risk of our kids getting taken from us. Our state leans much more toward wanting to keep families together if at all possible. So, for us the worst case scenario, if we got reported a second time, would probably be that a case might get opened, and dh and I might have to deal with the ongoing stress of social workers dropping in unannounced, just to see how we're doing and to offer their services.

Which would be awful for me and dh -- but a barrel of fun for our 2 outgoing daughters, who love meeting and interacting with new people.

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#4 of 24 Old 11-15-2008, 01:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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But, anyhow, with all the above that I've shared in mind, I'm not sure how to communicate about the risk of toxic relatives with my dd -- both the risk of them calling CPS, as well as simply the whole unhealthy dynamic of associating with people who crave control over others.

Dd clearly doesn't see CPS intervention as a bad or scary thing. I'm not quite sure how to talk about it with her without causing her to get unduly anxious. On the other hand, rather than getting unduly anxious, I'm thinking she might actually become convinced that nothing could be as bad as what I've been saying. I think she's already leaning that way. After the social worker visit, dd was, like, "I can see you and Daddy are really upset about this -- but it didn't seem bad to me at all. It was actually kind of fun ...."

Edited to Add: I do like your idea of getting her to think about how she'd feel if people were talking badly about her behind her back, and saying untrue things to a punitive authority figure, to try to get her to do what they wanted.

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#5 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 01:03 AM
 
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Are you and your family in counseling? It seems to me that this whole CPS/toxic family thing is taking a huge toll on almost everything you want to do, and perhaps talking with someone can help you with a)making the break with your family and b)communicating with your children about it.

Because I think you're absolutely correct--your family is far too toxic for it to be at all safe to have any contact with them whatsoever.

One of the things I discussed in therapy when trying to break away from the toxic members in my family was finding other people in my life who could fulfill the needs that I was trying to meet with the toxic ones. I'm hoping that meeting and making close friends among your homeschool/unschool group might help fulfill some needs for family/tribe for both you and your children.

I've said this before, mama, but I really feel for what your family has been through, and I'm worrying that you need some help and some shoulders to lean on while handling this curve ball that life has thrown at you.

I also worry that this experience has "taught" you that nothing out there is safe, when it's just not true. Most people out there in the world have no desire to interfere with how you raise and educate your children. They might judge, but they won't do anything about it. And even CPS, which is the ultimate judge, decided that you were doing fine! It's only your controlling manipulative family that seems to think it's OK to interfere like that.

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#6 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 06:30 AM
 
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my family are toxic and abusive; i've chosen to cut off all contact, and dd often asks to see her grandparents (even though she's only ever seen them twice - they don't really have a relationship built up). it's hard for me to explain to her the past abuse I suffered at their hands. But I know what I'm doing is the best thing I can to keep her safe.

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#7 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 11:32 AM
 
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I agree you need to cut the family out of your life, but I don't think you need to talk about it so much with your kids because that talking will make it so much more significant to them. I would just say "we are going to take a break from seeing them for a little while". If she asks when she will see them or the cousins I would just say "we'll see". I haven't read about anything that you do which we didn't do but we never really told dd that those things were different from other people so it was alot less for her to need to process or talk about and she just thought our lifestyle as normal (even though it wasn't) The only thing that she really thought of as different from others is being vegetarian.
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#8 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 01:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Are you and your family in counseling? It seems to me that this whole CPS/toxic family thing is taking a huge toll on almost everything you want to do, and perhaps talking with someone can help you with a)making the break with your family and b)communicating with your children about it.
We haven't gone to formal counseling yet. I've been reading Toxic Parents and talking about it a whole lot on here. I agree with you about needing to build up a supportive community. I'm about to start volunteering, with my girls, one day a week as a children's advocate in our neighborhood battered women's shelter.

This seems like it will work out great -- I'll be caring for the children while they play and do art projects, while their mothers are getting help and job-training at the shelter. I explained that the only way I could do it was if I could bring my girls -- and they actually think that will be ideal, because seeing my children will help the other children feel more welcome.

So we'll see how it goes. I was a women's advocate some 20 years ago at a shelter when I was in college, and I just remember the staff and volunteers as a very caring and close-knit group of women, though I didn't get as plugged in at the time 'cause I was all into my young life.

Dh and I have been going through some theological changes lately, and at the moment don't seem able to find a church that's a good fit for our family. So we've started doing family church at home more, and I'm hoping that maybe some of our friends who are currently out of church might start fellowshipping with us ...

And, of course, I'm hoping that some of these unschoolers we're just starting to get to know, might become part of our extended family over time. But I'm holding back from opening up about all we're going through, I think that could overwhelm people. I don't want to come across as too needy, although I realize I really am.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#9 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 01:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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my family are toxic and abusive; i've chosen to cut off all contact, and dd often asks to see her grandparents (even though she's only ever seen them twice - they don't really have a relationship built up). it's hard for me to explain to her the past abuse I suffered at their hands. But I know what I'm doing is the best thing I can to keep her safe.
It's amazing how little contact it takes for children to "bond" sometimes! Your daughter's had way less contact than my 8yo has -- so I guess it's not so odd that my 8yo keeps asking.

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#10 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 01:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree you need to cut the family out of your life, but I don't think you need to talk about it so much with your kids because that talking will make it so much more significant to them. I would just say "we are going to take a break from seeing them for a little while". If she asks when she will see them or the cousins I would just say "we'll see".
Yes, I'm not even bringing it up, just respnding to her when she does.

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I haven't read about anything that you do which we didn't do but we never really told dd that those things were different from other people so it was alot less for her to need to process or talk about and she just thought our lifestyle as normal (even though it wasn't) The only thing that she really thought of as different from others is being vegetarian.
That sounds much wiser than the way I handled things.

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#11 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 01:58 PM
 
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Your daughter is only 8yo- she does NOT have the maturity to understand the complexities of life or to keep herself safe in all situations. It's your job, as her mother, to keep her safe, and give her safe opportunities to explore the world and learn and make her own mistakes. There's a difference between learning to self-regulate sleep and food, and understanding the dynamics of toxic families.

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#12 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 02:02 PM
 
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Off topic slightly, but a child doesn't have to bond to someone in order to ask to see them. Perhaps it will be easier to cut off contact if you think of it this way: children are curious about their parents and naturally want to meet their parents in order to complete the picture for themselves.

Just because my child asks about my brothers and sisters doesn't mean I'm obligated to allow contact with abusive, toxic people.

I wish you peace and hope your family can heal. Therapy is a wonderful suggestion. ((()))
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#13 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Your daughter is only 8yo- she does NOT have the maturity to understand the complexities of life or to keep herself safe in all situations. It's your job, as her mother, to keep her safe, and give her safe opportunities to explore the world and learn and make her own mistakes. There's a difference between learning to self-regulate sleep and food, and understanding the dynamics of toxic families.
Yes, this is a good way of looking at it -- and, really, I'm glad that she doesn't seem to see all the evil things that are possible.

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#14 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 02:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Off topic slightly, but a child doesn't have to bond to someone in order to ask to see them. Perhaps it will be easier to cut off contact if you think of it this way: children are curious about their parents and naturally want to meet their parents in order to complete the picture for themselves.
This makes sense -- and may explain why even though she periodically talks about it, she doesn't seem terribly upset. We just talk a bit, and then she moves on to something else.

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#15 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 02:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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And, actually, even though I generally like for my daughter to feel empowered to make her own choices, I think this is one area where she'll be more at-peace with me making the choice for her. Then she doesn't have to bear the guilt of feeling that she's the one who cut off Grammy.

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#16 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 03:25 PM
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I think that's a good point... and I also think it's important to validate her sadness over not seeing her family members, no matter how toxic they are. When I worked with kids who had been taken from their parents for horrific abuse, they almost all needed to process their grief over "losing" their families - and even though your mother and extended family are toxic and not safe, I think it's still important to empathize about how sad it is to not be able to see them. You may be doing this already, but just in case... from a adult perspective it's easier to focus on the mama-bear stuff, and circling the wagons, but I think kids need to know that it's okay to feel sad, too...

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#17 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 06:21 PM
 
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Yup, I can relate to that aspect as well. DS' bio-dad was abusive and is currently completely out of our lives (which wasn't even MY decision but rather that of the Family Court Judge- I was ready to allow supervised visitation.) DS knows he has a father and wants to know him, but that woudln't be safe for any of us.

He doesn't remember his bio dad at all, as he hasn't seen him since he was about 18mo. But he still feels a sense of loss at "not knowing his father" even though he does have several "father figures" in his life. This is something I have to help him work through.

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#18 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 07:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ruthla --

Dar, I agree with you that it's important for me to empathize with dd's feelings of sadness and loss.

A little while ago, I did tell dd that I understood her feelings of sadness over not being in touch with Grammy/cousins. I said it's perfectly okay for her to feel this way, and I'm sorry that Grammy's not safe, because of her low opinion of me, and her feeling that I'm such a bad mother.

Dd started asking why Grammy thinks so badly of me, and it opened up some sharing of "family stories" which greatly interested dd. I explained that my grandmother (my dad's mother) didn't like my mother (Grammy) and was very mean to her -- but my (now deceased) dad insisted that Grammy had to let my grandmother have me as much as she wanted me.

So I spent lots of time with my Grandmother as a small child, who with me was very doting and attentive, always holding me in her lap, reading me stories, making me yummy snacks. So I adored my grandma, which hurt my mother because Grandma made her life so hard.

So, since I've became a mother, my mother (dd's Grammy) has insisted that my grandmother's early influence has totally shaped who I am and the decisions I make today. My mother feels she's had no input into my upbringing, even though the truth is that I still lived with and spent most of my time with my parents, especially my mother.

My grandmother's been dead for 23 years now -- since I was 21, and I didn't have my first child (my 8yo dd) 'til age 35. So I've tried to explain to my mother that since Grandma died well before I became a mother, we never had any discussions on breastfeeding or toilet-training or other parenting-issues ...

(my mother's very much of the "make 'em independent" mindset -- so my willingness to hold and "baby" my own children, and let them decide when they're ready to wean and do stuff on their own, she totally attributes to my Grandma's "babying" of me.)

Dd so clearly wants to be connected with my "history" -- but I know I need to be careful not to overload her with painful stuff. And it can be hard to filter out everything I should while I'm talking, but I'm doing my best.

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#19 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 09:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Dd is also wanting to send Grammy a Christmas card ... and I've just said, "I don't know, maybe ..."

The more I think about it, the more leery I feel about sending her anything my dd has written, because of the possibility of Mom and others critiquing whether or not dd's writing is at "grade-level."

After dd's one-day visit to the school, the teacher met me outside and told me I really need to work with dd on her reading and writing, because she's "very behind." Dd was otherwise-occupied when the teacher said this, and I have no intention of making her aware of this assessment.

I also don't want to make her feel self-conscious about her writing-skill, by trying to explain why I don't want Grandma, her aunt, and/or others scrutinizing whatever she writes in a possible attempt to build up another case against me.

I'm considering saying (truthfully) that I don't feel comfortable writing to Grandma right now, because of Grandma not expressing any concern or regret over what has happened to us -- not even a, "Well, it's true I've said some things, but I never intended for anyone to use this information against you in a hotline call. I'm so sorry this has happened."

When I confronted Mom, she didn't deny talking about me with others (plus I've heard others' accounts of things she's said about me) -- she just commented that lots and lots of people were "very concerned" about my girls. She was absolutely not apologetic ...

And when I called to let her know that we needed to end all contact, because it wasn't safe to bring my girls around her, because she disagreed so strongly with my parenting, and was bound to keep trying to get control -- she just said she respected dh's and my opinion, and she knew there was no point trying to change our minds, and she really didn't have any more to say.

And that was it. She's made absolutely no attempt to get in touch with me since that conversation 2 months ago. Of course, I realize her attention right now is probably focused more on the economy, she had a lot of money tied up in the stock market --

though she also had at least 2 savings accounts, plus her house was paid for (and she lives very frugally and doesn't build up debt), plus as Dad's widow (he was a government employee) she gets a substantial monthly pension and good health coverage, so I know she's not freezing and hungry out on the streets or anything.

Anyhow, I just feel like telling dd that sending Mom a card is likely to open the door again, without her having to make the slightest attempt to "dig deep and try for some remorse" (as Harry advised Voldemort to do in that last battle, you know, before Voldemort's curse against Harry rebounded on his own malicious head )

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#20 of 24 Old 11-16-2008, 09:44 PM
 
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I think that's a good point... and I also think it's important to validate her sadness over not seeing her family members, no matter how toxic they are. When I worked with kids who had been taken from their parents for horrific abuse, they almost all needed to process their grief over "losing" their families - and even though your mother and extended family are toxic and not safe, I think it's still important to empathize about how sad it is to not be able to see them. You may be doing this already, but just in case... from a adult perspective it's easier to focus on the mama-bear stuff, and circling the wagons, but I think kids need to know that it's okay to feel sad, too...

dar

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#21 of 24 Old 11-17-2008, 06:56 AM
 
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i wonder (just thinking aloud) if your DD would be fine with making a christmas card for the grammy and not sending it? or perhaps mailing it addressed "to grammy, USA"?
it might fulfil her desire to have a sense of family, but without actually making contact.

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#22 of 24 Old 11-17-2008, 05:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Maybe ...

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#23 of 24 Old 11-20-2008, 05:04 PM
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Little time to write m_m, but just had a thought about the xmas card...what if your dd made the card on the computer. You know, with cool fonts and whatever else. No need for ANY handwriting!

Mammal_mama, I also have toxic family...my in-laws. Will try to write more later...got to go.

((((HUGS))))
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#24 of 24 Old 11-20-2008, 06:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pia View Post
Little time to write m_m, but just had a thought about the xmas card...what if your dd made the card on the computer. You know, with cool fonts and whatever else. No need for ANY handwriting!
Yes, that is a good idea. I guess I'm just hung up on not wanting to give Mom the impression that we're opening things back up ...

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Mammal_mama, I also have toxic family...my in-laws. Will try to write more later...got to go.
Oh, I'm so sorry that you and others are having to deal with this, too!

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((((HUGS))))
((((HUGS))))) right back to you -- and to you and everyone a great big

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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