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Mothers Day 2013 Reflections

05/12/2013

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Mothers Day continues to be a roller coaster of emotions for me. I am thankful for the many wonderful mothers in my life. My own. Jason’s. My sisters, sisters-in-law and good friends who are journeys simultaneously with me into motherhood. Ali’s first mom who gave her life, loved her, did her best for her, and then gave us her blessing to raise her precious daughter. And now there is Buzz’s mom who is heartbroken and working hard to play by the rules and get her son back. She’s been very easy to get along with and loves her little boy and he loves her too. She sent me a happy mothers day text on my way to church and I sent her one back with a photo of these two beautiful children that I got to spend the day with, mothering. I’m an exhausted, blessed, weepy mess and I’m going to attempt to use this space to sort out my thoughts tonight.

I’m not usually the type who cries reading mothers day cards, but there I was at my parents’ church this morning crying over a Hallmark card before I even got to the handwritten note from my own mom, who is relentlessly loving and encouraging. Mothers Day never used to be an emotional day for me. I wrote about that last year. I always knew in my heart that I’d be a mom and I wasn’t sad while I was childless. I haven’t lost a mom or a child or dealt with other situations that makes women sad on mother’s day. And yet these past two mothers days I’ve been an emotional wreck.

People often tell me that they’ve talked about doing foster care someday. In my head, my response is “but then you decided that you like yourself and your life, so you thought better of it.” I’m joking, but not. Because I like myself too. In a clear-headed, God-focused moment Jason and I decided whole-heartedly to surrender our plans and dreams for what our family might look like and become foster parents. We feel called to it. Most of the time. Other times, I long for my former comfortable, easy, predictable life. I certainly have my fair share of “what the heck are we doing? And why?” moments lately. But I do know why.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I can’t read this passage (Matthew 25:34-40) anymore without sobbing, because I’ve done most of those things and I’ve seen Jesus’ face in the face of one of the least of these. I can’t go back to putting myself first anymore.

Except when I do. Because I’m not perfect. I pour out my mama love until I’m empty. I’m strong until I buckle under the pressure and I crack a little. I need time to heal. To recover. To refill. This week has been hard. So very hard. And good, too. We’ve been giving this thing all that we’ve got and I feel completed poured out. Empty. I see that Buzz has made a tremendous amount of progress in a week. It makes my mama-heart so proud that he’s feeling comfortable and safe here now. Progress is tangible. Hard work is exhausting.

A woman at church yesterday told me that I’m living her dream. Huh? Her dream I think she said was “to adopt a some kids from Africa.” I didn’t feel compelled to tell her that both of these kids where born in Nashville and that one of them is in foster care. I’d love to know what my face looked like when she said that as I was wracking my brain to come up with a response. I hope I smiled politely. I kind of wanted to smack her in the face and say, “Do you have any idea what this week has been like?” But I know she’s seeing a different reality than me. I know because I do that same thing when I see a picture of a family with kids of all different colors and I think: How lovely! How beautiful! I want my family to look like that. She’s seeing the happy young white mom with the dark brown boy with crazy hair, a mischeiveous grin and a puppy dog backpack and the caramel brown little girl with a big pink flower in her curly black hair, with the infectious smile and owl backpack. And if I do say so, they were both super adorable yesterday. But it’s not all flowers and puppies and sweets around here.

There are tantrums and tears. (Sometimes from the kids.) There are butts and noses that always need wiped. There are accidents to clean up. Wanders to chase down. Slow pokes to pull along. Buckles to buckle, shoes to tie, velcro to fix, cups to fill…one thousand million times a day. In one week I’ve become the mom that’s shouting “Share! Play nice! Walk please! Slow down! Come on, let’s go! We don’t hit! Gentle please! Don’t bite people! Leave the dog alone!” way too many times a day. I’ve relied on the TV as a pacifier more than I care to admit. (Sometimes for the kids.)

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I have to stop and wonder: between me and that woman, which one of us is seeing the real picture? Both of us? Maybe neither? Perhaps we’re each only seeing one small part of the greater picture the Master Artist is creating.

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Dear Pre-Foster-Motherhood Self (An Open Letter)

03/25/2013

I was so influenced by Lauren (from Word from the Wallaces) open letter to herself pre-four-kids-under-the-age-of-five that I decided to write an open letter too. To myself. Pre fosterhood.

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Dear Pre-Foster-Motherhood Self,

Life is about to change big time and you can never go back to normal when it was just you and Jason and the dog. Except for that time between placements, but that’s not really the same old normal anyway. Just listen up. Here are so things you should know:

• Keep toddler foods around. I know you don’t know what this means because you don’t have kids yet so let me make it plain and simple: Your first placement will be a toddler and she will arrive late at night while Jason is in Norway. You should always keep things like this in the house: bananas, cheerios, yogurt, applesauce, fruit snacks/dried fruit, crackers, cheese sticks.

• Freeze as many meals as you can and stock up on frozen pizzas, burritos, pasta, macaroni and cheese, frozen and canned veggies. Fresh is nice but survival is more important. Food is food. Well meaning friends will think you don’t need any meals brought to you because you’re not recovering from a pregnancy. They have no idea how overwhelmed and exhausted you feel. Which brings me to…

• Ask for help. Friends want to help, they just don’t know what to do. They stopped over for 15 minutes to meet your new daughter but didn’t stay long because they didn’t want to intrude. You should tell them you’re at the brink of an emotional breakdown and you desperately need adult conversation.

• It’s OK for the mom to cry. Related to the previous point. You think you must always be strong and have all the answers. You were thrown in to the heat of battle and you weren’t briefed on the past. Give yourself grace. Put the screaming kid in her crib where she’s safe, call your mom for help and then have a good cry until she arrives.

• Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. You think you have no plans tomorrow. You can get groceries tomorrow. You can vacuum the house tomorrow. You can sleep in tomorrow. You have no idea if later today your life and plans will change drastically and you have absolutely no control over tomorrow. Or maybe you do. But do whatever you can today, just in case.

• You were wise to stock up on one outfit in every size range. It still won’t be enough but you’ll be happy you have something not cigarette smokey to put the new kid in before she goes to sleep for the night.

• Speaking of when the kid sleeps: this is your time to get things done. Also remember to sleep. But do as much as it’s healthy to do during nap times, right after the kid goes to bed and before she wakes up. That way when she’s awake, she has your full attention.

• The first few days, you will have very little contact or direction from anyone in the system. You’ve passed their vigorous inspection process already and they trust you with this kid (despite your own feelings of inadequacy). Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from her caseworker until next week when she informs you of the meeting you’re required to attend the next day. Write all your plans in pencil.

• Journal and keep records of everything. Everyday.

• Take lots of snacks with you when you leave the house. Those little people are constantly hungry. Left unfed for an hour or two, they get cranky. Also note: they don’t eat much in one sitting. Hence the constant hunger.

• Be brave and adventurous but know that sometimes you will flop. It’s OK. It makes a good story and you’ll be glad you tried. (I’m referring specifically to the time you decide to take the brand new toddler on a plane trip alone rather than finding a respite home. By the end of the flight all of the other passengers will hate you and assume you’re a horrible mother because “your daughter” keeps hitting and biting you, throwing her toys and screaming like a psycho when you try to restrain her in your lap. It really doesn’t matter. You will never see any of them again. Focus on nurturing and disciplining that feisty little girl…everything you do will matter eternally to her.)

• You’ve heard many times “it’s a broken system,” after your first placement you will have a much broader understanding of this. After your second placement you will realize it was so much worse than you thought. After your third placement… wait. We’re not there yet. But I’m scared to find out.

• Community and support will start to include a lot of people you’ve never met in person. This is perfectly OK. Your current network of family and friends does not include enough like-minded people who are young foster parents (yet, anyway). Blogs and blogging will connect you to these more-costly-than-gold individuals.

• Throw your expectations out the door. No really. Again. For real.

• Surprise: You will be adopting sooner than you imagine to a child much younger than you anticipated. It will be awesome! Also the most difficult fight of your life to date.

• It’s worth it. Love is never wasted. God will provide exactly what you need as you need it. He will sustain you through things you do not think you can handle. He will MOVE A MOUNTAIN. You’ve been told all of this before but I’m sending this from the future to tell you that it’s been tested and proved true. Your mind will be blown. Hang on to your hat…


Good Reads

02/11/2013

These three blog posts rocked my world last week and I wanted to pass them on to you.

Look at Me When You’re Talking to Me!

You want me to look at you, even when you are very angry and I don’t want to look at you.  And you want me to wait my turn for talking, even when I have something very important to say.  So why don’t you look at me when I’m doing my very important things before you tell me to stop?  And why do you get to interrupt what I am doing without waiting until I’m done?

Written from the perspective to the child, this totally humbled me as a mama. It brought tears to my eyes as I realized how often I fail Ali by not giving her the attention and respect she deserves. The day before I read this, I had scolded Ali for demanding “Cacka! Cacka! Cacka!” from the other room. I told her she needed to say “Cracker please” in a nice tone. Then a few minutes later, I caught myself toning out her voice as I was preparing dinner. “Pease. Pease. Pease.” she was saying in the sweetest little voice as she pointed to the package of crackers. She wasn’t rude, loud or demanding…and she totally did not get my attention. Sigh.

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For the Foster/Adoptive Dad

My friend and mentor says there are only 2 emotions; fear and love.  They are intricately and inversely related.  Foster or adoptive children live out of fear, they are afraid that at the drop of a dime they will be picked up and put out of the home they are currently in.  It does not matter how old they are or how long they have been there, fear is often the primary emotion that is shaping everything and anything about these children.  … God says He is love, and thus far I believe Him.  No matter how many moments we want to respond in fear, fathers must ferociously pursue the presence of God…the presence of love.

I don’t come across a lot blogs written by foster/adoptive dads so I thought this one was pretty cool. This father discusses 3 things that he feels very foster/adoptive dad must force himself to lean into daily.

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3 Things We Forget

In most cases lying, stealing, selfishness, and the inability to empathize will surface again and again. Get ready, because they all come with the territory. All of these are symptoms of a human being who has been forced into survival mode early on in their little lives.

From the same father as the previous post, here he addresses 3 things to keep in mind when parenting “hurt” kids—behaviors that result from fighting to survive, not to expect gratitude from a child who didn’t choose this life and the long term investment beyond a kid’s 18th birthday.


Mother’s Day Hurts

05/13/2012

I don’t usually blog on the weekends but it’s Mother’s Day and there is so much going on my head, I need this space to sort it out. (OK?)

It’s technically my first Mother’s Day today. Yay! I love being a mom. It’s even more fun than I expected. I say it’s technically my first Mother’s Day because last year at this time I was expecting. Not pregnant; we were in the midst of training to become foster parents.

At what point does a woman become a mother? Is it the moment of conception? Is it the moment her child is born? Is it the first time she sees her child’s face? Is it the day they meet for the first time? Is it when she’s aware of her child’s existence? I pondered these things one morning last Spring and I asked God. I felt His answer wrap around me, You became a mother the moment you decided to become a mother.

So, you see, a year ago, I already felt like a mother in a lot of ways. I had a car seat installed in my minivan, for crying out loud. I just didn’t have any kids to buckle into it yet. But I could feel their existence like an ache inside of me. I prayed for them and cried for them as I arranged childrens books on ledges, painted a nursery and stretched a sheet over a new crib mattress. Last Mother’s Day was full of excitement and preparation.

Mother’s Day has never been a hard day for me. Never a sad day. I know it is for a lot of people… women who long for children, children who long for mothers, mothers who have lost children or lost touch with their children, children who have lost mothers or lost touch with their mothers. I’m not one who was brokenhearted on my childless Mother’s Days because I never doubted that I’d be a mom one day. I was not in any hurry. I knew God put it in me to be a mom and I didn’t care that much when and how it happened.

This Mother’s Day is sad for me, though. I am crazy in love with my little girl. She fills my days with joy with her sweetness, giggles and gigantic smiles. Her baby browns pierce into me and melt my heart. She’s everything I could ever want in a child. She is a blessing. But I am her mother because she was taken away from another mother. And that is why I am sad this Mother’s Day. On my way to church this morning, I’ll drive past the hotel where she lives—the woman who carried my precious daughter for 9 months, who decided not to abort this one, who brought her into the world hopeful she could parent this time, that she would be able to be the mother her daughter needed. But it didn’t happen. She messed up. Again. And a child was taken from her. Again.

(photo: beth rose photography. bethrose.com)

I have an irrational amount of respect for my daughter’s biological mother, her first mom. “How could someone give up such a beautiful child?” a friend once asked me, without thinking of the implications. Before I met her, it was much easier for me to judge her, too. She wasn’t a “real” person to me yet. I knew on paper what she had done and I was angry about what had happened to Precious, what she had been put through. However, getting to know this woman forever changed me and my perspective about the parents of children in foster care. She was not a monster. She was not an evil child abuser. She was not a heartless, selfish, careless person. We all make mistakes, some with more serious consequences than others. I can say without a shadow of doubt that she loved, and still loves, Precious deeply. She has dreams and hopes for her future. She misses her terribly and I hate to think of what she might do to try to cover the wound left by the children that were ripped from her. She’s a hurting woman—just like many others on this day—and my heart breaks for her.

So that is on my mind today.

Then, there is the problem of orphans. There are thousands of kids in this country who have no mothers to celebrate today. I’m not even going to try to carry the weight of that burden because I would be instantly crushed. Lord knows I can only handle so much. But I weep for them, too. We’re making more room… I whisper into the wind. Our new house will have 4 bedrooms. FOUR! But there are so many motherless kids. So many more than our home will hold.

I read this awesome blog post on Friday called Where is the Mommy-War for the Motherless Child? and wanted to run around shouting, YES! YES! Why are we moms not more outraged about the number of motherless kids around the world? I get that stay at home moms are offended that working moms think they don’t work hard and working moms are offended that stay at home moms think they’re doing better for their children. I get that some moms advocate for breast feeding while other moms choose formula for valid reasons. In all these situations, these kids have moms who love them and are providing what they believe is best for their financial, nutritional, emotional needs. In light of the fact that there are thousands and thousands of kids WITHOUT mothers, IT DOESN’T FREAKING MATTER. Kristen says it better than me, so please read her post.

So there’s my broken heart this Mother’s Day.

I will be happy today, I promise. I will savor the sloppy wet kisses of my baby girl and hug her a little tighter, endlessly grateful for the blessing she is to my life. I will thank my mom for setting an awesome example for me and for continuing to love, encourage and support me as an adult.

Who knew Mother’s Day could become such a tangled mess of emotion?


Christmas Babies

12/19/2011

On Saturday my sister-in-law Ginger suggested we go to the Opryland Hotel to look at the Christmas decorations with the babies. My bro-in-law Dan, our friend Leila, her son Jaron, and my mom also came along. It’s a beautiful, huge hotel with massive indoor gardens, fountains, and even a river. And they really do it up for Christmas. I didn’t take a lot of pictures but I got a few good ones and Leila sent me some of hers.

Leila took this one of my mom holding Jaron and me with my baby. Precious reached out and took Jaron’s hand right before the picture snapped. So sweet!

Eliza is a tiny toddler. I love it! She’s 10 months old and a wee bit smaller than Precious but she’s going to be taking her first steps (without help) very soon.

What really struck me when I saw this picture is how much our lives have changed this year. My niece Eliza was born in February, our daughter was born in July and baby Jaron was born in October. Each came into his/her family a different way: born biologically, through foster care and through an agency adoption; respectively. We all became mamas this year—couldn’t have planned that better if we had tried. Also, I find it particularly amusing that these three babies are vanilla, caramel and chocolate.