Category: family

practicum

The summer heat was less noticeable in the shade of the fig tree. I was thankful for it’s invasive girth as it shielded and protected us. Except for the whining mosquitoes it was as pleasant as it could be in the early evening of July. My neighbor, who I hadn’t seen in a few months, surprised me with her candor and vulnerability as we talked about things from parenting to body positivity to self-acceptance.

She told me she admired the young parents she saw around her, including her own daughter, who had access to all this information and were able to do so much better by their kids. She loved watching her daughter parent. 

Her perspective refreshed me. I viewed the onslaught of information as a curse. There’s so much just a few mouse clicks away it feels like falling down a rabbit hole. No matter what I decided to do as a parent, I had people either berating or praising me for my choices. From co-sleeping, to breast-feeding, from natural birth to consequences, to vaccinations…there doesn’t seem to be the kind of scientific all-conclusive evidence one would hope to find.

I learned a long time ago to make the best decisions I could with the knowledge I had at the time, to be tender-hearted, willing to learn and to watch the parents around me. I read a few books, recommended by friends and our adoption agency. There’s a mound of information to get lost in and I decided that often the best thing I can do is trust my intuition.  To share what I’ve learned with an open hand, letting the people around me take up what works for them while I’m learning from them.

Here’s a few tricks I’ve picked up over the years:

1. KID OF THE DAY

Basically, ALL THE THINGS became sources of contention—who sat where when, who got to use the blue cup, who got to open the garage door, who got to hold the IPAD while they watched a movie. We instituted kid of the day and most of those conflicts dissipated. 

2. CHORES

Each morning the kids pull six craft sticks out a jar and they have all day to complete them. At the end of the day, all the sticks go back into the jar. This simple system works great for our family rhythm. I googled age appropriate chores for kids and picked 18 that need to be done every day (or at least checked on daily). Helping with laundry looks different between the 13 year old and the six year old, but they’re both able to participate.

3. ROOM CLEANLINESS

Each kid has a mason jar with 30 craft sticks, every day (or when I remember) I do a room check which means relatively clean bedroom (beds made, no clothing clutter, and able to walk across the floor) and bathroom (towels hung up, sink and counter free from toothpaste). If a kids “fails,” I take a stick. At the end of the month they get one dollar for every stick.

4. DISRESPECTING JAR

Ever seen New Girl? Remember how Schmidt often had to put a dollar in a jar? I borrowed it. This one is a newer system so we’ll see if it sticks, but so far it’s promising. When a child is being disrespectful, they have to put a quarter in the jar. It’s hopefully a playful way to remind the children that thoughts and feelings are OK, but that no matter what our words and attitudes need to be respectful. I hope it will teach me too.

Those are some things that as our kids have gotten older I’ve seen help with the day to day rhythm of cohabiting. What are some things you’ve tried? What worked? And what did you release cause it just wasn’t working for your family?

following the light

The lies breathe down my neck…sometimes it’s impossible to bear their weight.

It’s hard to write about adoption. It’s a tangled web of attachment, parenting snafus and mistakes and privacy. My daughter’s story is her’s alone—and it’s not fair for me to broadcast across the universe about learning to navigate her PMS or what brings her pain and what she can sit through. This is none of your business.

 

But…

 

But if I don’t say anything then it’s an incomplete picture. If I don’t write about these hard things then it’s an unrealistic picture of adoption and how it irrevocably changed and shaped our family. How it changed me. So it’s not your business, but I do want you to know something.

Like how I battle shame for the way I sometimes have to give myself a pep talk as she walks in the door. Or feeling guilty when my sister called me out on the fact that as soon as Glo wakes up in the morning, the first words out of my mouth are commands for her to go do something so she would stay out of my way. Whereas, when my other two wake up, they’ll crawl into my lap and we’ll spend time snuggling. Because that doesn’t make me feel like the world’s largest slime ball and it’s super easy to talk about it to every other person on the planet.

There’s a line between being honest and over-sharing.

So I don’t write much about our adoption because so much of this isn’t any of your business—it’s private matters worked out in my heart between me and my God, between my daughter and myself, and between her and her God. She’s got a lot of trauma to work through and a lot of her story with which to come to peace.

I don’t feel like I rescued her. I know logically and in a very tangible way, we saved her life. And I know she is for loving and that she’s mine. I also remember standing outside the door to our hotel in Africa, leaning my head on the door crying in defeat. We’d been there for three weeks and our quiet, friendly, accommodating child had transformed into this needy, destructive, dramatic human I didn’t recognize—and all I wanted was a giant red button to reset the whole thing, to make a different decision that led us to a different place. Those are my weakest and darkest moments. The moments when I wish we had never entered into this.

Our family is knit together and she is mine and I am hers. It’s in my bones. My body and heart would break if anything happened to her—and I know that I know that I know I am her mom. The end.

 

But…

 

But there are moments I think back to before I had kids and I wish my biological children away because I’m tired of piles of laundry and 90 requests in the first hour of the day and I just want to sit on the couch and drink my coffee and not have to be “on” for anyone else; or I crave the days when my time was my own and I could be as selfish as I wanted with what I did and how I did it…But when I think about life pre-adoption there’s this small voice, the cynic inside, who whispers that I really do mean it with Glo. That I really do resent her and the way she upset my life.

And a knife twists, and I submit to the lie that I’m a terrible mom and so I stay quiet and let the guilt and shame eat away. I can’t tell you this because you’ll tell me everything I already know—that I’m broken and wrong and hateful. You’ll see her and see a great kid and assume I’m exaggerating about how hard it is to choose love.

And there probably is a biological imperative that makes staying with your kids that look and sound like you a tad bit easier—

Someone once told me it would feel different when Kyler gives birth than when Gloria gives birth…I’m scared they’re right. I’m scared that blood matters more than choice. I’m scared that Gloria will turn 18 and walk away from us and I’ll breath a great sigh of relief. I’m scared that I’m checking the boxes of what a good mom is, without actually feeling the feels of a good mom. I am going through the motions, but have completely separated myself from her. I’m on one side of the wall and she’s on the other.

 

But…

 

But then the still small voice, whispers–not the cynic, the other one. The one who is lovingly tender as I walk out my life with fear and trembling. The Spirit presses in, reminding me that I too am created and beloved, I am for loving and that I am good. I am reminded of the power of the light, that by writing and speaking–even of the darkest and hardest parts, they begin to lose their power. Shame and guilt give way to grace and humility. I confess my hardness, and am softened.

So, I’m exposing these lies to the light. Here, now I am showing you the darkest parts of me. I am letting the lies have their moment in time and space—and as I write these words, tears drip down slowly, and my heart grows softer and more tender towards myself and towards my daughter. There is grace and love here. There’s a chance for hope and life to speak into these dark places.

 

glo

a letter to the one who sees me (on her birthday)

1914799_10100449294736620_3159165_n
After a full day of travel after ten days in Uganda.

The words will flow. I know if I bring her to my mind the stories and the words will just flow.

I’ve known her for seven years. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but with the number of people who have come in and out of my life, having one who stays feels extra special to me.

I remember the first time we talked, we talked about hair. And the next thing I know she sent home a hair product with Doug she thought I would like.

I also received a butterfly clip–wish I still had it, but I think it got purged in one of my cleaning phases because at the time it wasn’t that remarkable.

A tree fell on my car, I got a rash, and was planning a birthday party for our one year old. She brought me flowers.

Said one year old would spend her time at childcare during church, screaming her head off, and she would hold and rock her instead of having me paged to come get the inconsolable little one.

The most remarkable thing is that all this happened at a time when I felt invisible in a church I had been in for six years. I remember walking down the long hallway to drop off my two little ones, wondering if I should even be there. She would be sitting at the end, and her face would light up when she saw me. For a moment, I felt like I belonged…that I mattered to someone.

Have you ever had a time where you felt intentionally pursued, like someone just decided that you were for loving? Lord, I hope you have. There is nothing that heals and restores quiet like that feeling, no matter what lies you have believed before.

One unremarkable Sunday when she stopped me in the hallway and asked how she could pray for me. I stared into her eyes and I risked. I told her about a big, impossible dream. And she believed with and for me. In that whole waiting process, she was faithful to carry my burden and my dream and my hope as if it were her own.  After several months, the hope I had was disappointed.

In a moment of grief, like any logical person I decided the best thing for me to do would be to go and visit my sister in Uganda. I didn’t want to go by myself, so I texted the one who had carried me, who had seen me, who had loved me.

We flew across the world so I could grieve. She held me while I cried. She taught me how to cling to faith when the bottom had fallen out. She made me laugh and taught me to find joy even in the sadness. She taught me about the heart of my God, and how it so much vaster than I ever could have imagined.

She couldn’t set me free, but she certainly dropped a lot of keys so that I could learn to unlock the cage I had trapped myself in and has stood by me while I tried to stretch my wings.

1512599_10104037026528350_219242120_nMaritza Amanda, you are the woman I hope to become. I love you. Happy birthday sweet friend, soul-mate, and sister. You are for loving. I hope you feel all the love today, and that you experience how IRREPLACEABLE you are too all the ones who call you friend. 

a million ways

There’s a million ways. An infinite number of moments to say yes–to breathe life into dreams. Sometimes I have to say no. Sometimes I can’t be fully present or give my all and I have to step back. But I’m hoping my yeses outweigh the no’s.

We’re camping right now. Out in the woods of Tennessee enjoying slightly cooler weather and being unplugged from life a little bit. Although I did manage to find Free People on sale, get decent coffee and internet along the way. But before all that happened we took our kids down to the lake to swim. They laughed and played and built sandcastles. As we were getting ready to walk back to the campsite Doug showed Matthew a frog. He fell in love with the thing and wanted to bring it with us. We didn’t have anything to put it in and since our campsite is near the other side of the lake, there are also tons of frogs over there. We could find another one.

My boy is sweet. He’s a gentle, kind-hearted soul. So he was going to let his frog go because he understood we didn’t really have a way to carry it and it was a long walk back, and we could find another. He felt sad but he understood as much as his little heart could. And something in me roared to life in that moment. I told him I’d carry this frog back to the campsite for him.

His whole face lit up. I had just given him the world. We talked about his frog on the long walk back. I helped him pick out a name (Fishlegs) and told him how his frog was a wily little one, finding the cracks in my fingers and pushing his nose through, trying to escape. I had entered his world. In a small way, I had given him a moment that showed him I cared about what mattered to him. I love my son. I take care of him. I wash his clothes. I feed him. I give him good things and make sure he’s safe. But I feel like it’s these moments where he feels seen and heard. It wasn’t hard to carry the frog—a little tricky and maybe a little gross—but it would have been so easy to explain it away. “There’s more back there…” “You’ll get another…” “It’s not a big deal, it’s just a frog…” 

But it wasn’t just a frog to him. And I feel like by saying yes I kept his child-like wonder alive a little longer. He gets to believe a little more that the world is actually a caring place that will meet his silly froggy dreams. 

And sometimes I have to say no because we don’t have time, or I’m tired, or it’s not feasible. But my best moments are when I say yes to the unorthodox, the times when I bend towards my children and lift up the things that are important to them—treasuring them as if they are my own. Those are the moments when my kids feel seen and heard, and where I have connected with them.

I say no a lot.

But I hope I say yes more–a million random yeses so that when they’re older they’ll know their dreams matter to me.

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