Recipe for a Rocky Road Trip

Are you planning a leisurely road trip with spontaneous stops at places like the world’s largest flea market or that java-shop-turned-glorified-monument that’s actually shaped like of a coffee pot?  Are you hoping to go solo or possibly with one or two of your best sane friends?  If you’re betting on a smooth trip where the greatest obstacle is deciding between “Kansas” and “Styx” on your road trip playlist, well…this blog isn’t for you.

But if you’re planning on going on a trip of 4+ hours of inherent chaos with children in tow…then this recipe just might hit the spot.  Enjoy!

RECIPE FOR A ROCKY ROAD TRIP:

  • 1 minivan (may substitute with any vehicle meeting legal seat requirements for all passengers)
  • 3 Children with Assorted Bladder Control (Note that decreasing or increasing number of children will alter recipe.  This depends on altitude, sugar consumption, age and child temperament.  Sometimes one child= chaos of 3 children, but we recommend multiple children for peak back seat arguments.)
  • 1 Supportive But Reluctant Spouse/Extra Adult (Preferably someone who did not grow up with many road trips and who worries about really practical things.)
  • Assorted Bags and Food (Increase or Decrease Luggage/food in proportion to number of children.  May substitute paper towel for Norwex cloth.)
  • 1 Overly Enthusiastic Pit Stop Planner Stuck in Denial (It’s best if this person loves road trips, overestimates children’s ability to sleep in hotels and not break things in quaint stores, and has unrealistic expectations of spouse’s conversation capacity.)
  • A 15 Hour Drive (For best results, don’t decrease hours)

Take first ingredient and place children, reluctant spouse, luggage/food and overly optimistic planner inside.  Be sure to whip all carefully packed luggage and food items for several hours until items are disheveled, disorganized, and (for best results) strewn over inside of van. 

When adding multiple children, be sure to wear hot pads as friction is likely to occur.

Slowly add final ingredient, over 1-3 days.  It doesn’t matter how fast or slowly you stir in hours…every option will result in parental exhaustion.

Add pit stops to taste, but be aware this will increase your overall trip hours.

Congratulations!  You’ve just followed a recipe for Rocky Road Trip!  Enjoy!


Stay tuned as I chronicle my family’s epic Rocky Road Trip to visit my sibs in Alabama!  More chaos to come. 🙂  

 

Putting Our Needs in the Mailbox

Who knew a game of pick up sticks could prop open a stubborn window into my son’s world, releasing the beautiful breeze of his soul?

My middle child and I had been going to counseling for a few months for a behavior issue that my husband and I felt ill-prepared to handle alone.  In the end, I found that counseling changed my parenting and perspective more than my son, but the resulting confidence has helped me immensely.

Though he sometimes fought our counseling visits, my seven year old’s favorite part was playing games with me.  We’d snicker over role-playing, and his infectious laugh filled the room when we tried to create a story together, each adding one ridiculous sentence at a time.

The counselor pointed out that part of what he craved was simply time with his mom, and the games provided that opportunity.  But she also had a knack for turning games into tools to shape us and help my son to talk more.

One of his favorite games during counseling was pick up sticks.  Despite my beating him the first time, he was hooked to play again.  The second time we played, the counselor asked each of us to share some important part of our life every time we picked up a stick successfully.  It could be something that made us happy, sad, afraid or angry…but we couldn’t keep playing until we shared.

How precious to know the joys and even fears of his seven years of life, the things that he counts as important.  And how wonderful that he was enjoying the game just as much as I was.

In fact, he enjoyed it so much that after the first time we played, I ordered him his own set on Amazon for his upcoming birthday.  When the package arrived, I tore into the yellow bubble wrap to reveal the anticipated toy.

But once past the shrink wrap, I uncovered an unexpected flaw within the small box: the wooden sticks were covered in some kind of mold or mildew!

Disappointed, I decided to return the sticks and get new ones.  So I printed the return label off amazon and promptly…delayed mailing the package for weeks.  Ahem.  I forgot…or I got lazy…or we had the stomach bug.  You know.  The usual excuses.

The point is, I ended up mailing that package of pick up sticks much later than I planned, on a Tuesday….the day of my son’s last counseling appointment.

That day at counseling we played pick up sticks again while my son shared pieces of his heart.  As my son cleaned up the pile of sticks so we could leave, the counselor looked at him warmly and said, “Those are yours to keep.  That’s my parting gift to you.”

My son could not have been happier with that little pile of used wooden sticks- it was an absolute treasure to him.

And it ended up being an unexpected treasure for me as well.

As I contemplated the events later, I felt God impressing on me the symbolism of me putting the old sticks in the mailbox the very same day that my son received a set as a gift.  It was as though God was reminding me that when I let go of my needs and surrender them to Him, only then can He provide for me in His delightful way.

Which brings me to three questions for myself and for anyone of you who has burdens or needs weighing your soul.

1: What needs do you need to put in the “mailbox” today and give to God?

dh_creative pixabay.com

What stresses, needs or worries are you trying to hold onto or fix on your own that you need to release to God?  Is it work? Your children?  Your finances?  Your dreams? Your marriage or relationships?

Today I’m going to a doctor’s visit that stresses me…I need to put that in.  We have new financial twists in our road ahead…I could stand to drop that in the box.  I’m trying to finish a book and need clarity of next steps…maybe I need to mail that out too.

Those burdens aren’t doing me any good sitting in a package that I won’t let go of.

2: What is keeping you from putting your needs in God’s hands?

As I mentioned, it took me a very long time to put that small package of pick up sticks in the mail when it could have happened immediately.  Putting that package in the box was a small thing, but it required a specific action from me.

In the same way, we sometimes hold onto our needs much longer than we need to, with one excuse or another.  We’re afraid to give up control, we’re afraid God won’t answer as we want, or maybe it hasn’t even occurred to us yet to ask God for help.  Maybe we think we’ve given it to God, but we find that we keep taking that package out of the mailbox because what if something happens to it in transit?  Trusting God seems simple…but it really does require us to act.  And that action is a daily, even an hourly thing.

3. What does it mean for you to accept God’s provision instead of yours?

For starters, we all know that giving our needs to God doesn’t always mean that the answer will show up in our hands at the end of the day like my son’s pick up sticks.  God’s ways are not our ways, His timing isn’t always obvious to us, and His provisions sometimes don’t look the way we’d expect.

I was expecting to order a brand new game for my son with my money and have it show up in our mailbox.  Instead we got a used set from a surprising source.

In the same way, God’s answers may not always come in the timing or manner we expect.  But if we give our needs to God and ask Him to help us see His provisions, we may be surprised by all the ways He’s already showing up.  He longs to give us good things and for us to trust Him as a child trusts their parents.

I hope you’ll stick a stamp on something you’re holding onto today and set it free…and if you do, please share with the rest of us what you let go of or how God provides for you as you wait.

 

 

 

New Year Family Time Fail

You know those moments when everything is going perfectly and then it all falls apart in slow motion?  The second before your toddler elbows his milk off the edge of the table.  The instant before you say that snarky comment that sets your spouse on defense.  The insane laughter just before your boys accidentally head butt each other while playing superheroes.

Yeah….ummm…this particular family time wasn’t one of those moments.  Oh it ended in full-on fall-apart chaos, don’t get me wrong.  But instead of starting with shiny promise, it was ugly and doomed from the beginning.

I’ve been trying to be more intentional with my kids about real family time.  Not just the family moments where we’re all facing the same direction towards the nearest screen, but where we’re all facing each other.  You know. Like they did in the old days.

We’re trying to turn a new leaf where I actually make dinner (I know…I’ve shocked even myself), and we all eat together whenever possible.  I even bought little conversation cards from the thrift store to get us talking, and I’m trying to focus more on the deeper life conversations, including prayer and talking about God.  (Always interesting with a three year old.)

So last night, with the New Year right around the corner, I thought I’d create a cute little family moment where we shared some of our hopes and prayers for 2018 based on this cute little free printable I found from JellyTelly!  It was the recipe for a perfect happy moment like this picture:

How easy could it be?  What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, how about everything?  (I think I need to stop using “cute” and “little” in reference to family moments.)

First, let’s talk timing.  I decided to call everyone to the table while my poor husband was trying to pull together a meal for the kids because I was clearly shirking my previous commitment to cooking.  So he was only half there, and my kids were hungry.  (Note to self: never do anything important when the kids are hungry.  I should have picked up on the “Jaws” music looming in the background.)

I asked the big kids to bring a notebook which lead to a disagreement because I didn’t make the three year old bring one because the blessed child can’t write.  (By the way, does anyone know how to say “let’s be reasonable?” in 7-year old boy language?)

Then there was the part where I tried to explain in a calm, positive voice why we were sitting down together and what my plan was, which would have gone better if the children were listening and if I’d stayed calm and positive.

When we finally started sharing our hopes and prayers for the New Year, I sighed an internal sigh as my daughter shared that she hoped we all had good birthdays…and Christmas…and Easter…and New Years…and Mother’s Day…etc.  OK…so she wasn’t exactly pouring out her soul.  But at least she was participating.

My 7 year old apparently had zero hopes or prayers for 2018.  Nada.  Nothing. Zip.  Big dreamer, that one.

My almost 4 year old was more interested in finding all the ways to bang or smash his new toy than in whatever gibberish I wound up saying in my repeated attempts to coral the family into a unified, vision-sharing, team.  Someone should have gotten me a megaphone for Christmas.

The family moment finally ended when my husband put the 4 year old in time out and I finally stopped waiting for my middle son to miraculously access his joyful cooperative side.

Epic family fail.

Or was it?

We did learn to sit and share, even if it wasn’t even on the fringes of cute.  Good things don’t come easy, and sometimes the fruit of our intentions starts with tiny seeds that we plant in faith.

But as our pastors shared today, we have to be bold, give up our fear, and be focused.  Basically…we have to know what we ultimately want, be intentional about pursuing it, and persevere even when chasing that vision gets hard (whether that’s because of an illness, setback, or a child throwing a toy at your head.)

So this new year I’m sure I’m going to fail at something.  I’m not going to make a meal every night, and I’m going to lose my temper with the kids despite my best efforts.  I’m not going to be perfect and some days I’m not going to see the fruit of my efforts.  But I don’t want that to keep me from trying, from planting seeds anyway, and from persevering into what I know God wants me to do.

My theme for this year is simply to persevere in God’s promises.

What are your hopes and prayers for this year?  Consider yourself a part of my messy kitchen table discussion and share what you want to be intentional about pursuing this year?  Where can you lead yourself or your family deeper into what really matters?  What seeds do you want to plant in 2018?

 

Is Love Biased? (On loving adopted & bio kids- PLUS!-how siblings reacted to adoption)

Can you love adopted and biological children the same?

Maybe it’s a question people are afraid to ask, but the curiosity lingers.  It’s human to fear what we’re not certain of… and it’s not really a selfish fear.  The last thing we want is to adopt a child only to discover that we can’t give them all the love they deserve.

But as someone who has had children through birth and adoption, I’ve found that love doesn’t know how to be partial and it certainly isn’t weighted more deeply by flesh and blood.

Adoption, like birth, is a path to parenthood and doesn’t dictate our capacity to love.  As I go through my normal day, I’m rarely thinking about the fact that my youngest is adopted.  When I’m scolding kids for sneaking candy, reading books and chasing kids at the park, or apple picking together… I don’t compartmentalize my kids or have stronger feelings of joy, pride, irritation, or protection over one than another.There are certainly differences between adoptive and biological children: I can’t go hunting for pieces of myself or my husband in our adopted son.  (Although honestly, sometimes that’s freeing because he gets to be himself- nobody can try to claim every piece of him!)  I also can’t parent him expecting him to be “just like me” or “just like his father”.  I may have a learning curve when trying to approach his unique personality and traits since I can’t chalk it up to a hand-me-down traits.  Though at the same time, I can’t assume parenting my bio kids is easier just because we have genetic similarities.

All three of my kids have wildly different personalities and annoyingly varied responses to discipline.  In fact, recently we’ve gotten professional counseling to help better parent one of our biological kids because even with shared DNA we don’t always have all the tools or wisdom to know what each child needs.  I parent each child slightly differently, but my ability to love each is the same.

Here’s what I know about my adopted son:

  • When he had trouble breathing during bad congestion, my mama heart was ready to take him to the ER, no questions asked.
  • When he paints pictures at school I’m so happy to make room for them on the fridge.
  • When he’s sad or left out my heart is sad with him (unless he’s sad because I made him return the tic-tacs he sneaked from my bag.)
  • When he needs extra help with speech, I gladly advocate for him and find him the support he needs.
  • When I tuck him in at night and he says “I lud you”, my heart melts all over again every time.
  • When I look into his little face I’m so grateful that he’s mine, perhaps in a more profound way than even with my biological children.  This doesn’t mean I love him more, but that I’m more keenly aware of the unmerited grace that brought him to us.
  • I’m fiercely protective and proud of him.
  • I post adorable pictures of him perhaps to an obnoxious degree on social media.

Love isn’t measured by DNA or birth.  Love is what pulls us out of bed to feed a baby in the middle of the night when we have no energy at all; love is something we give with no other prerequisite or merit than “you’re mine”; love cooks and cleans and wipes smudges off cheeks and then does it again the next day; love comforts and disciplines and calls someone higher into who they’re meant to be; love isn’t manufactured and it isn’t always a warm fuzzy feeling; but love is what calls you to bring a life into your home even before you ever see their face or feel their heartbeat or know their name.

If fear of being able to love an adopted child is the biggest thing holding you back, I’d suggest you do a quick inventory of all the people you love who aren’t flesh and blood related to you.  I imagine your spouse is on that list, and perhaps a few close friends and beyond.  I know the love we have for children feels like a whole different category, but our hearts are designed to make room for love beyond logic, beyond biology.  I really believe that if you take that step of faith towards adoption you’ll find your heart has no trouble wrapping itself completely around a little life, even if your mind feels a little unsure at first.

If you have your own story of adoption or making room to love, I’d enjoy hearing your story!!  Share below in the comments or on my facebook page!  And speaking of friend’s stories, below you’ll find a few stories of how parents and siblings of adopted children learned to make room in their homes for a sweet new child:

Sibling Adoption Stories From Friends…

Terry: International Adoption- Korea D was not very happy about giletting a sibling. He liked being an only child. He was 4 ½. We took him to our Agency visits so he would learn about E as we did. He seemed ok with it. His personality was completely different than E’s. We let him know that these are things we did while waiting for him to join our family.

Becky: (Foster-to-Adopt) We always talked about [adoption] as if it were a normal part of life. So when the time came for it the kids had been thinking about it and excited for it for awhile. They had written the new baby notes and bought little gifts in anticipation for the babies arrival. It all happened so fast that my son came off the bus one day and walked into the house and we said … come meet your new baby sister. He felt like he had just won the lottery too!

Pamela: (International Adoption- Ethiopia) Since we already had 5 biological children we asked the eldest their opinion on adopting first. At Christmas we made the announcement to the rest of the children. We were careful to not upset birth order. In the first couple years of bringing 2 new children into the home we worked very hard to give the 2 kids closest in age more attention since it was big adjustment.

Carrye: (Foster-to-Adopt) Yes, I’m sneaking one last thought in here: When we were preparing to bring our son home, we prayed almost nightly with our kids for a new baby.  Even as we were learning to wait on God, our kids were learning a similar lesson.  Since our son was an emergency placement and we brought him home so quickly, the end result was a whirlwind for us and our kids.  Our daughter cried at first because she “wanted a sister!” but quickly came to love her new brother.  A beautiful side-effect of bringing our children into our adoption story is that now it’s part of their “normal”.  When my daughter talks about having kids, she always mentions that she plans to adopt too.


Parting Thought: I don’t want to gloss over the ache of infertility or the deep fear that adopting a child might feel like a “less perfect” way to grow a family.  If that is your story, my heart breaks for you and the last thing I want to do is invalidate you or your very real struggle.  If you’re wrestling over guilt in choosing adoption after infertility, I’d refer you to this post titled “Second Best or Second Choice?” and hope it encourages you.

Missing My Son’s Mom: An Adoption Confession

Psst…for those who are new, it’s a November Adoption Celebration Month on my blog!  Have you ever wondered or worried if you’d be able to handle a relationship with an adopted child’s birth parent?  Find courage in reading my personal story and the perspective of my friends at the end of the post!  Thanks for stopping in! 


It’s irrational to expect to meet an intimate stranger at a retail store- but welcome to my irrational imagination. I scanned the Babies “R” Us for any sign of what I believed her face must look like. Why on earth would she be here of all places? You don’t have to convince me I’m crazy. I’ve never actually met her. To be honest, I don’t even have a picture and I don’t know where she lives. But I know her name. And I know I see pieces of her in my now three year old son…because the woman I’m looking for gave birth to him.

Photo Credit: Mysticsartdesign (pixabay.com)

We have friends for whom the decision to adopt seemed quick and calculated. Our desire was always there, but we meandered and poked and investigated quite a bit before deciding to pursue a child through the foster care system. By the time we jumped in we had two young biological children, but my heart longed for another baby. After six months of licensing and home study, and seven months of waiting (a story for another time) we got a miracle phone call and our lives swelled to make room for a three day old infant with no name.

My husband found metered parking by a snow bank near the hospital in the dead of winter, me with grungy hair and a gloriously bewildered heart. We met some social workers in the lobby, then down a hall, up an elevator, wrong floor, elevator down, and stopped. That final antiseptic clean hallway we conquered is still etched in my memory. There was a small conference style room at the end on the right where we were told to wait. Wait. Wait for a little boy with a total of zero shared DNA that we’d only known about for 72 hrs.

The door opened, and they wheeled in a tiny baby with a nose that melted my heart (I’m so serious) in a slightly oversized Christmas outfit, even though the holiday was well over. Now what? With my biological children, people asked in the hospital if they could hold my baby. But this was foreign territory; a baby not from my own body. I found myself asking someone else permission to pick up that precious almost-mine child. Seven something pounds doesn’t do true justice to the weight of the miracle I held in my hands that day.

Our first family picture the night we brought our foster (soon to be adopted!) son home.

As beautiful as that hospital moment was and remains to me, it owns an untold sadness as well. Though we often want to view adoption through the celebratory lens of love that grafts a new limb on a family tree, it’s not natural for a limb to need a new tree in the first place. As I heard at an adoption group early on, no adoption story comes about without loss first. That hospital may be last place my son ever encounters his biological mom, the one who brought him into this world and carries a family history I know so little about. I had no idea how painful it would be to own just tiny scraps of the story that rightfully belongs to my son.

Initially we had some limited contact with our son’s biological brothers, and though we haven’t had the chance to see them lately, I’m beyond grateful for those moments. They’ve each been able to hold him as a baby, and one brother even passed our baby’s picture along to his biological mom. Briefly we thought a window might be opening up to meet her, but she never reached back out. I don’t judge her for it; her life is full of it’s own grief and loss, that I’ll never be able to know or erase.

Why was I so afraid of contact with the birthparents when we first started our adoption journey? In my insecurity, I couldn’t imagine trying to maintain a relationship with a woman who, in my mind, had a stronger claim to my child than I did. How agonizing might that be? But by the time we were waiting for a child, I knew in my heart that I would make room for that possibility because it would be in my child’s best interest. We would adopt not just this child, but his story as well.

I never dreamed of the pain on the other side of the coin. I never conceieved we simply wouldn’t know his mom or dad at all. In all my rosy adoption dreams, not one included me frantically searching the internet, or the aisles of a random Babies “R” Us, for a strange, precious face. I’ve dreamed of his mom and long to be able to look into her face and see my son’s eyes, or cheeks, or (bless me) his nose. I can only offer him his resemblance to his biological brothers as we have their pictures and I share them when I tell him his birth story. This is his thread-bare history-the bits and pieces of his pre-story melted into the story of how he filled our lives with joy. But I long to give him more.

Oh I know there’d be a distinct pain in the knowing, in the seeing. Maybe it would be much harder than I imagine, trying to let my son grow up knowing two moms. Would he face a more personal rejection? Would he struggle to make his two worlds fit together? I can’t speak into that because it’s not our story. But for those who have always thought like I did that it would be better not to muddle through an open adoption, communicating with your child’s biological parents, I can only say there’s a deep loss to not knowing them as well.

When we send our children off to school for the first time or to camp perhaps, we often feel we’re somehow missing a piece of who they are by not being with them. We eagerly anticipate asking them how their day was, who they played with, if anything bad happened, so we can fill in the gaps we missed. Because our child’s story is part of our story and we want to own all of it. The same is true of my adopted child: somehow I feel I’ve missed a piece of who he is by not being there to access and know the roots of his life that are invisibly intertwined with mine. There are questions I can’t ask or answer: Where did he get his whimsy and love for dance? Is his extroverted self a carbon copy of his dad? Did that smile get passed down from a great-grandfather? And those are just the tip of the iceberg. In the end, I’m simply left with swiss cheese pieces of his heritage.

Maybe one day we’ll learn a bit more about his biological mom and reconnect our son with the thread of his past that remains. In the meantime, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop wondering where she is and trying to find her face in even the least likely places. Whether I meet her or not, she’ll always be part of our story.

 


 

Thoughts on Birth-parents from other Adoptive families…

Caroline’s Story: (foster-adoption) “Our daughter’s birth mother visited her several times when she was very young.  It was important to me that I always treated her with kindness and compassion. I wanted to make sure I respected her dignity and I hoped that she would see that her baby was being taken care of by a safe and loving family.” 

 Lisa’s Story: (Private US adoption) “We have a semi open adoption with G-‘s birth mother.  From day one we decided we wanted G- to know her story.  Once she turned 3 and could kind of understand things we started mentioning her birth mother as her ‘tummy’ mommy and that she couldn’t care for G- the way [my husband] and I could so we adopted her.  We would read adoption books to her and still do to this day. She seems to get it…as much as a 4 year old can.  We also have made it a point to meet with her birth mother once a year and we send her pictures every month.  We want G- to know her story and if in the future she wants a relationship with her birth mother that door has already been opened for her. 

Becky’s Story: (foster-adoption) “We met her [birth mom] a few times and agreed to send a few emails a year.  She has not responded to them since the first one.  We are open to emails and letters but not interested in visits.  We might be when F- is older and has a better understanding of the entire situation.

Pamela’s Story: (Sibling Adoption from Ethiopia): “Since it is an international adoption distance hinders relationship with birthparents/family. We worked with another agency program to locate birth family and send letters and photos of children. We intend to travel back to Ethiopia in a couple years to reconnect with birth family. We describe our family as a blended family so that the children maintain their connection to birth family within our family.”

TERMS DEFINED:

Closed adoption: An adoption in which the adoptive parents do not maintain any kind of relationship with the birth parents through visits or correspondence.  This was once a very common kind of adoption, sometimes with parents never telling their child about their adoption at all.  But studies are showing more benefits to open or semi-open adoptions, though they aren’t always possible.

Semi-Open and Open adoption: Adoptive and birth families maintain some form of ongoing contact.  This could mean the adoptive family sends emails or pictures to the biological parent(s).  It could even mean occasional visits.  In private adoptions, an agency usually helps coordinate the parameters for ongoing contact.  Semi-open adoption involves non-identifying contact (bio family doesn’t have access to adoptive families last name, address, etc.)- but correspondence (and even visits- see Lisa’s Story) can occur.

In foster-adoption, prior to adoption, the state will decide the amount of contact the biological parent has.  The biological parent is given specific goals to reach in order to be reunified, and visits are often a part of that.  The state may also require that the foster-child visit with his or her biological siblings.  Post adoption, the adoptive families can decide what amount of contact with the biological family is safe or healthy or their child.

Dear Husband, I Can Explain…

Husband of mine, when you get home you may have a few minor questions for me.  You know, mostly revolving around when and why the sanity left our home.

While I’m not able to fully answer that without a lawyer present, I can at least explain a few of your areas of concern.

For starters…the smell.  If you’re picking up on some briny floral with a vague hint of greasy garage you’re right on track.

You know how I went to our son’s classroom and saw how his teacher used those great essential oils?  I thought I’d try to recreate that calm atmosphere at home by using some soothing lavender in our diffuser.  You know, to keep everyone from losing their sanity.

Except lavender is a liar and doesn’t actually have the solutions to all my problems.

See…shortly after the kids got home from school I followed our sneaky three year old down the stairs and discovered an oily liquid all over the place.  After a brief interrogation, our little man procured a bottle of WD-40 which I can’t imagine how he found. (Side bar- I’m thinking we may need to reevaluate our basement shelving now that we have curious ninja boys.)

So it turns out the calming lavender wasn’t really a match for oil-aggeddon and the irritability and minor panic that followed.  There was a lot of hand washing and label reading and, fair warning, I wouldn’t look in the trash can if I were you.  Although- bright spot- your exercise machine glides like a charm now.  I wish I could tell you which boy to thank for that.

BUT, when I punished our son for lying about his involvement in the oil escapade, I may have caused a teeeeensy emotional landslide.  Which leads me to the situation with the van.  (Don’t look now.) Apparently losing TV and computer privileges for today warranted him packing up the house and plotting a trip to visit Nana and Papa in Alabama. 

I hugged him goodbye and took pictures of the kids because it was sort of funny for awhile.  Except the six year old was dead serious and had a rather robust packing list. 

And eventually I had to wrestle him out of the van and tell him why it wasn’t plausible for him to actually drive hundreds of miles today and return home for school Monday.

Which brings me to that last smell…while I was trying to get God knows what out of the fridge to scrounge them up a dinner to lure them home before they started hitch-hiking down to Dixie, I had some small kerfuffle.  Don’t ask me how I did it, but the short story is that the fridge shelf slid and I lost control of a pickle jar with a poorly secured lid.  (Don’t say a word- we both know I’m the too-lose-lid culprit but we’ll not discuss it again.) 

As with the oil, the lavender was fairly intimidated by the pickle stench.  I may need to give it some self confidence lessons.

So to recap: don’t go in the basement, if you see green on the floor it’s pickle juice not pee, I’m looking into some stronger lavender essential oils…and we might need to plan an actual trip to Alabama to talk the kids off the ledge.

Also, can I go out in the morning?  Possibly?  I could even take just one child…preferably a compliant one who’s in a good mood and hasn’t touched anything with pickles lately.

Thanks and I love you.

~Your pickle splattered Wife

 

 

 

Immature Mom Moment?

My counselor asked me once why I always feel behind.  Oh gracious, I could write a book about that.

But it all starts with intending to wake up before my children, and snoozing in just a few extra peaceful minutes only to find one of them waking me up instead.  (A kid at 6am is harder to ignore than an alarm at 5:45 apparently.)

This morning my usual three year old culprit greeted me and I had to shush him and whisk him down the stairs before he woke up the other two angelic sleeping children. (And “angelic” is a word we seldom use in this house.)

Then I sat down to have my “quiet time” where I read a chapter of a book or some chapters in my Bible or pray (or for the love of all things sugar-free be ALONE).  But I find myself feeling guilty that while I’m trying to have a calm conversation with God I have to keep yelling at a mischievous child.  I think God gets it but its awkward.

Finally my little guy wore me down, as usual, and I invited him to join my “quiet time” if he could, in fact, be quiet.  Bless his heart.  He lowered his voice to a toddler whisper, but the kid never stopped talking. Asking me questions.  Wanting me to see what he was working on.

Death glare.  “Child…you will learn what quiet means if it is the only legacy I pass on to you.”

Finally my older daughter came in and I gave up my not-so-quiet endeavor to look something up on the computer for her.  Next thing I knew, I looked over and my preschooler was wielding his scissors and must have been bored with paper because he was now intent on trying to cut my new blue shirt.

I mom panicked into over-reacting umm….just a smidge we’ll say.  My poor son was surprised and hurt by how quickly I over-scolded him. 

I shooed my daughter out of the room and told her to get dressed, I plucked my crying three year old up and put him in time-out with yet another firm reminder that “we ONLY cut paper” (which his little brain will file away in the same place he puts my rules about not coloring on the wall).

Then in anger I called out passive aggressively to no one in particular (but specifically my husband) something about having to handle all the things myself just because I’m “mom”.  (Translation: obviously we are in crisis mode and if my tirade and a crying child didn’t get you down here…I’m going to lay out an additional suuuuper subtle hint for you.)

Then I sat down for a brief moment, probably to stew in irritability even though my shirt didn’t actually get cut after all.  And suddenly it occurred to me…my husband had kissed me goodbye a good 15 minutes ago and left for work already.  He clearly had no idea of the shirt and scissors kerfuffle and thankfully he also missed my immature mom moment of taking my frustration out on him.

I’m actually relieved because the minute I realized he wasn’t there I saw my Mom meltdown for what it was- that kind of embarrassing time when my kids witnessed me yelling at literally no one because of a blue shirt.  I had made a mistake but since he wasn’t there I got to take it back and start over.  (How often does that happen?)

Whew.  With any luck he won’t even read this blog and he’ll be none the wiser. 😉

Now my big kids are at school and my son has been sneaking his own lunch while I type.  But I think its worth it to take a minute to cheer you up with my immaturity.


 

What about you?  Any embarrassing or slightly over-reacting moments from your parenting career?  Feel free to share- sometimes being able to laugh at ourselves brings us a little perspective on our frustrations for today.

What Twinkies Taught Me About Human Dignity

“Fat people gotta eat!” she said as she poked around an end of aisle snack food display at the grocery store.  She’d been talking half to herself, half to my three year old son who has the innocence and charm to engage many a stranger.

I was on a pointless search for an almond butter that didn’t cost a million dollars, but I smiled as she emphasized her statement by grabbing at her perfectly thin stomach.  I assured her that she was more than fine in the weight department but not to be deterred, she good naturedly revealed her undershirt to reiterate her point.

She never stopped moving and I wondered if she really cared what anyone thought of her, stomach or otherwise, the way she confidently rattled on, side-stepping social expectations in a delightful child-like way.  But as she poked her head around me to say hi to my son, she unexpectedly threw off my own sense of social balance:  As though she literally couldn’t help herself, she invited my sugar-loving preschooler over to a veritable heaven of Hostess products and said, “Want a treat?  You can only pick two.  Which ones do you want?”

My son hid behind me at first as though even he was unsure of what to do in this situation.  But confection wins out every time and before I really knew what had happened, he was throwing a box each of Twinkies and Ding Dongs into my cart.

Our new friend grinned and waved me along, “Just follow me and I’ll buy ’em when I check out.”

What had I gotten myself into?  I didn’t have a strong social map for this situation (do they make books for this kind of thing?), and all my brain synapses were firing on awkward.  How did this shopping trip turn into me playing follow-the-leader with a stranger who wanted to buy my kid infamously bad-for-you treats?

Still, though I may never know her whole story, I sensed that this woman might be someone who frequently found herself on the receiving end of help.  How often did she feel really seen?  How often did she feel the simple dignity of giving an impromptu gift to someone who couldn’t help their self?

So what that my three year old would have more Polysorbate 60 (apparently a Twinkie ingredient) than he knew what to do with.  So what that we didn’t need them and I could have bought them myself.

We continued our unlikely procession, she occasionally turning behind to encourage my lagging son to keep going.  At one point we split down different aisles but she told me she’d catch me up front.  My son, far more aware of the situation than I’d given him credit for, said in his earnest way, “Need her!  Red shirt!”  He could identify down to the shirt color the woman who was funding his treats and he feared we’d lost her.

But as we rounded another aisle she shuffled past and kept waving us along as though we’d never left her sights.  True to her word, she presented my son with his prize bag of goodies as she rung up her own things in the self check-out.  I scanned my items too and thanked her, enjoying her ongoing irritated conversation with the finicky self-check out system.  Before we left she told us where she lived and that we should stop by sometime and head to the lake.  Her generous sincerity somehow rubbed like sandpaper against my own inhibitions and slowness to welcome people with such open-handed hospitality.

As we walked out the door she called loudly to my son again, “Love ya babe!”  Maybe we’d call it taboo.  Maybe we’d say it was a lack of social awareness. But from the time we encountered her, the woman was simply reacting in the present with a warmth and realness that most of us would be too embarrassed to show.  (And maybe that’s more a tragedy than we realize.)

Though she didn’t hear him, my son, now tagging at my heels, met her free child-like emotion with his own: “I lud you too.”

And though admittedly I had to fight that place in my head that worried about my son freely throwing out “I love yous” to strangers, I started tearing up a bit at the exchange I’d just witnessed.  My son didn’t see the strange, the uncomfortable, or the awkward.  He didn’t care her gender, clothing choice, education level or race.  Yes he was mostly fixated on the Twinkies, but I also believe he saw her as an equal.  And isn’t that what I say I believe too?  That we’re all equals?

It made me stop to ask myself how I think about each person I see.  Do I really believe each person has equal dignity?  Do I honestly believe that each person I encounter has a dignity that goes beyond what they’ve ACCOMPLISHED, what they can GIVE, or how they PRESENT themselves? Am I so busy trying to secure my own dignity and worth through helping others that I stop seeing each person as intrinsically valuable?

Do I forget that our human need for each other doesn’t depend on our culture’s definition of who qualifies as “needy” but on the fundamental premise that each of us has some incalculable imprint of our Creator to share with the world?

Silly though my story may be, I didn’t give that woman dignity by letting her buy my son Twinkies.  Her dignity was her own beautiful birthright, Creator bestowed, not to be increased or diminished by a fellow creation.  But in letting her buy my son something seemingly insignificant, I believe I acknowledged in my heart the dignity that was always hers.  In watching her interact with my son I witnessed a piece of her that filled my own soul with more joy than a Twinkie has crème.

As I shared this story with my dad I lamented that my first reaction towards people is to see their social status, their worth according to culture, not their intrinsic dignity.  How can I change that first reaction?

And he wisely suggested that perhaps we can’t control that first reaction, but that God is more concerned with our “second look” at people.  Maybe we can’t help that first feeling of superiority (or inferiority even), that knee-jerk scan of who a person is and how valuable they are based on our first glance.  But we give that reaction to God and let Him shape our second look so that we are able to lay down our man-made view of dignity and see people through the filter of His free love.

So may we pray to acknowledge and embrace the full dignity of others on the streets, in our homes, and occasionally even in the Twinkie aisle.


Have a story to share about your own encounter with the dignity in others?  No story is small or insignificant…I hope you’ll share your moment and revelations with the rest of us.  Or start a conversation on my facebook page at www.facebook.com/lesstobemore. Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

Help! Is My Kid Broken or Am I?

Angry little voices broke the veil between reality and whatever vague dream my sleepy mind wandered in.  I yelled one of those pointless things we say as parents when we our plans don’t include dealing with petty and ridiculous now or ever.  “Everyone just work it out!”

I scanned the closest electronic device for the time: 6:30am.  For real, children?  As the arguing escalated, I went into the hall to find all three children awake with books creatively stacked across my daughter’s floor.  My brows went up, which is quite a feat for that hour: “How long have you guys been up?”

My answer-ready daughter filled me in: Her 6 year old brother had come into her room at some point in the night to “sleep”, which apparently translates more closely to “stay up and play”.  Alarmed by the prospect of handling severely sleep deprived children, I pressed further.  “Exactly how long have you been playing?”  She mused that it might have been starting to get light out when he came in.

(Can anyone say espresso please?)

Thus began one of those mornings when I knew exactly which kid would meltdown.  Sure enough, despite a relatively normal morning routine, my middle son was a puddle before 8am.  And by the time the bus rolled through, he decided he’d rather hide than ride.  My eight year old willingly stepped onto the bus but my son?  He threw off his backpack, kicked off his shoes, and retreated under a blanket on the living room couch.  So I mustered my politest smile (the last one of the hour) and sent the driver down the road with just one kid, my mind whirling about how to get my son out the door (for the love) for what was likely a regular day for most kids.

After delivering an ultimatum that should earn me an honorary lawyer’s degree, I convinced him to go to school and we dropped him off miraculously by 9am.  But even though it wasn’t easy, with him it could easily have been a lot worse.

So here’s my thing: am I intentionally raising one of my kids to throw tantrums and hit me when he’s mad?  Have I spent hours teaching one kid to obey authority while letting the others run amok with no direction?  Mm…gonna have to say no.

I have three kids- one who willingly complies and responds well to discipline, one that schmoozed two boxes of Twinkies from a stranger at the store today (not really the point, but still…), and one who is chronically difficult for me to direct.  Discipline and positive motivators alike…they’ve all failed at one point or another.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s an amazing kid: he’s sensitive, thinks of others, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to build rockets or bridges when he grows up.  But he also has bursts of anger that his almost 7 year old self should have kicked to the curb at age 4.  He gets very stuck in a thought pattern and has a hard time unlocking.  Sometimes he’s trying to be difficult, other times you can tell he feels like he’s the victim and he’s lashing out in his own misdirected attempt to right the wrongs he feels.  (And trust me, his episodes aren’t pretty.)

Often I feel like I’m doing something terribly wrong with him.  If I’d just been more consistent…if I’d just set clearer boundaries when he was a three month old.  If only I were more structured and less irritable.  And all of that has left me with guilt that is about as helpful as a hole in my window screen.

We could all be better parents (understatement of the century) but I’m realizing that’s not the only issue.

When it comes to our kids, there are some areas that we expect differences in.  We assume not all children will be equally athletic or artistic.  We understand that some will be amazing dancers and others will trip over their feet fifty times a day.  Some can belt and carry a tune at age three and some, well…bless their heart.

While we wouldn’t look down on all children for lacking the coordination to dribble a ball down the court, we sometimes set more uniform standards for what kids should be doing behaviorally.  We think ALL kids should be able to sit, focus, respond well to discipline.  ALL kids should be able to access words to tell us what’s wrong and deal with it rather than take it out in unhealthy ways.  And because we think ALL kids should be able to comply with our standard behavioral expectations, we either think something is wrong with the kid or with the parents and their discipline.

We say things like, “If that were MY kid…” or “If they just told him no more often…”  We label kids in negative ways.  We act like there’s an obvious, uniform answer for all our kids.  But what if there’s not?

Honestly, in the past I’ve been more judgmental about other people’s parenting or their kids. I probably still am occasionally.  But I’m beginning to realize what I wish I’d known long ago- just like all kids aren’t artistic or athletic equals- not all kids are behavioral equals either.

It’s not that we shouldn’t have healthy limits and goals for our children whatever their DNA and personality.  It’s just that we can’t plug in some easy formula for each of them and expect to get the same neat and tidy results.

Some kids wrestle with anxiety through no fault of their own or their parents.  Some kids throw hour long tantrums over something that other kids would get over in two minutes.  Some kids are naturally compliant and some aren’t.  Some, like mine, have anger bursts that surprise and undo me despite repeated attempts to curb and improve his behavior.

My point is simply this: each kid is so wildly different, and parenting is an all-out exhausting endeavor where you can’t use the same owner’s manual for more than one kid.  In my experience, the owner’s manual is pretty incomplete to begin with.

Certainly we as parents play a huge part in raising up responsible, well-adjusted kids.  But I also know this: each one of my kids processes and responds to direction, discipline, and motivators in irritatingly unique ways.

From missing buses to outbursts on one hand, to high-flung drama and irrational tears for another; from the sheer crazy of a three year old who crashes into everything, to an eight year old that I sometimes have to tell to please put down her book while her friend is over.

They’re all so very different.  And we as parents are too.  Parenting is part figuring out who my kids are and part figuring out who I am and uncovering how to meet constructively in the middle.  With discipline.  With goals.  And hopefully always with love.

I’m a mess.  My kids are a mess.  We’re not perfect and both my parenting and their behavior could be a lot better a lot of the time.  But we’re a work in progress and I imagine you are too.

If you have felt judged or incompetent as a parent because your kid didn’t seem to fit neatly into the behavior or discipline “norm”, please share your story!  How have you learned to let go of people’s expectations?  How have you learned to help your child or yourself overcome some difficulties (like anger, anxiety, OCD, etc) that other kids don’t deal with as frequently?

Let’s encourage each other with our stories.

 

Wanted: Failing Moms

I stifled my suffocating emotions as I cuddled the boy I’d reduced to frightened tears only moments before.  It didn’t matter that he had pushed all my buttons.  It didn’t matter that he’d angrily pulled the dresser drawers onto his bed and had plastered the floor with his crumpled clothes.  It didn’t matter that I’d started out as calm-super-mom patiently asking him to make things right.

He pushed.  And he pushed some more.  And I lost it.

Not in the “Christian” way.  Not in the “Oh Honey, we all make mistakes sometimes” way.  In the way that leaves you questioning why God would for a minute trust YOU as a mother.  What kind of mom could not just misplace her temper but lose it like a lego stuck in the van seat.

And for a whole night all I could think was that I wanted two things: one impossible and the other nearly so.  I wanted to rewind and undo my monster moment with my son more than anything.  And I desperately hoped in the basement of my soul that there was even one other Mom who had struggled with anger like I had.  Just one other mom like me that looked sweet and put together in church or the school pick up line but couldn’t always keep her stuff glued when push came to shove.

I scrambled through my list of friends, but fear has a way of isolating our worst broken places from the very people who could help us walk through it.  Sympathize with us.  Cry with us while we trudge slowly towards a better way to love.  And while I knew none of my friends were “perfect moms”, were there any that wouldn’t just listen to my bad mom confession, but silently nod their head and give me a look that said, “You’re not alone”?

Suddenly, I no longer cared whether I “looked bad” to other moms- I was overwhelmingly afraid of my capacity to BE a bad mom.  Not all the time.  Not most of the time maybe.  But in that broken moment when I didn’t have a blessed excuse to stand on for my actions.

So often the church and even school mom circles feels a little like that scene from “Mean Girls”

when Lyndsay Lohan (Cady) first gets invited with the “mean girl” clique to Rachel McAdams’ (Regina’s) home.  Cady looks on, confused, as the three other gorgeous girls take turns looking in the mirror and lamenting over their physical “flaws”.  One girl laments that her “pores are huge” and another decries that her “nailbeds suck”.  They’ve made it a ritual to feel better about themselves by each sharing some superficial shortcoming with the others.  But their bond is as shallow as their confessions.

In the same way, we’re willing to share what we consider our kind-of-bad stuff.  The way we’re hopelessly late because God didn’t bless us with an internal clock.  The way we indulge in a little too much coffee, but doesn’t everyone?  Even the cute little mistakes we make as moms like accidentally driving our kids to school on a national holiday or caving and letting the three year old help himself to a gazillion church doughnuts.  (Yes, I’ve done both.)

But when and where do we talk about the gritty stuff?  The real “bad mom” stuff?  The “I’m pretty sure I’m raising a murderer” stuff.  The “I cried myself to sleep over my mistake” stuff.  The mom fails that go beyond the superficial bad of dessert for breakfast or lying about the whereabouts of their toy when you know good and well you gave it to goodwill.

And while I’m not proud of myself, I figure the conversation has to start somewhere.  So here it is:

I’m not always a good mom.  I’m not always an OK mom, even.  Sometimes I screw up so bad I don’t want to tell any of you about it.  Sometimes I’m afraid if people only really knew… (and I’m afraid to finish that sentence.)

This isn’t a cry for accolades- I really am not looking for someone to tell me “I’m sure you aren’t as bad as you think, Sweetie.”

I want someone who will look me in the eye and tell me that I did screw up.  And then hug me and tell me that they’ve been there too.  Maybe not the same way.  But that parenthood has broken them in ways they’re afraid to tell anyone about too.  That they’re afraid sometimes of their own capacity to squish and scar the little lives they’ve been entrusted with. That some “bad mom” moments can’t be laughed away over coffee or numbed away over wine, but spill out in hot guilty tears in a pillow and linger long after the offense is over.

To any moms who feel this way: you. are. not. alone.  I see you and feel for you.  And while you may have made a mistake that isn’t “cute” or excusable- you are human.  And maybe you need to take a step to work towards change.  I know I do.  But don’t forget that your love for your child is so much stronger than that moment of brokenness.  Don’t for a second give up completely.  And whatever you do, don’t hide the shame away- because shame has a way of magnifying itself in secret and maybe our healing begins in pulling back the curtain to our vulnerable moments and letting someone see our real flaws.

So I’m putting out the application to you.. “Wanted: Failing Moms”.  Your brokenness is not too big for this space.  And if you need to vent publicly or through a private message, I’m more than willing to listen.  And I have a feeling we’re not as alone as we think.