Saturday, July 21, 2012

grace-based birthdaying

Ran to the Happiest Place on Earth last night with my two girls.  Yes, the very evening of Hummus Girl's birthday, to buy her birthday dessert for tonight's party.  Was open to the idea of making something myself, but as it has been no less than 643 degrees for the past three weeks, and I want to use my oven like I want a hole in the head, I went for the lazy grace-based alternative.

If you're like me, parenting, especially adoptive parenting, has a way of setting us up for inevitable failure in our own minds.  Pinterest, Etsy, all the countless gifted photographer/bloggers, jewelry designers, cakes and craft projects that belong in a museum, hand-crocheted underwear, and the like...

...can anyone say inferiority complex???

This is something I have really, deeply struggled with.  But you know, one beautiful result of this past year with all its challenges is more grace, from myself, to myself.  Or rather, from Father God to me, in a way that I can truly understand and access daily.  Why should I scorn His love by holding myself to a higher standard than He does???  That's a profound question worthy of a whole book. 

I had every intention of home schooling all of my children.  I greatly admire those who do, especially those with Many Small Children.  But late last summer I simply wasn't coping and I knew I needed some help.  Preschool three days a week for Hummus Girl turned out to be a huge blessing, one I was initially so hesitant about.  This fall she will be headed to Kindergarten at a small Christian school, and Princess Firecracker will attend preschool.  Quite frankly, I'm looking forward to Shu being old enough to go.  I think the structure as well as being under the leadership of someone other than Mommy, The Speech Drill Sergeant will be great for him.  Don't know that he's ready for that just yet, but he will be in another year.  I'm still home schooling Absent-Minded Professor, and that's just perfect for us both. 

I had to lower my expectation of myself  that I could teach them all, keep them all happy and creatively engaged and entertained, while keeping the house clean, dinner cooked, and myself regularly showered.  Might I feel differently in a few years?  Maybe.  In the mean time I feel great peace about sending the girlies off to school in a month.

Sometimes we eat frozen burritos.  And sometimes I make homemade spanikopita (it is worth noting, however, that was a good six months before adopting Shu, and though it tasted amazing, it was a ton of work that I will not be attempting again any time soon).  I'm not saying you never go the extra mile to create beautiful moments or events or gifts or meals.  I just think we should all do it with the right motive:  because it brings joy not only to the beneficiary, but is also life-giving to us!  If it's out of sheer obligation or primarily to preserve a false illusion of reputation?  Ugh.  Why bother?  At the ripe old age of 38.5 I'm finally learning there are...gasp...a few things that just are not fun for me, that I stink at, or that I simply don't have time for.  For example, I have been tremendously blessed by friends bringing meals after the births of our children.  What a great gift!  And I've done it a good number of times for others.  Every time, I felt stressed and anxious...until finally, Dr. Husband suggested that perhaps meal ministry lay outside my area of gifting and I should find another way to help a new mom.  See, I admit I'm not a great cook.  I don't really enjoy cooking for my own family much of the time, truth be told.  They're fed, and they're healthy, but it's not usually a passion or a pleasure for me.  So could I bring y'all a pizza or a gift card?  You bet!  But a nice home-cooked meal?  I'd actually prefer to come over and breastfeed your baby at 3 a.m.
Do my girls care whether their cake was homemade and prize-winning?  Heck, no.  Letting myself off the hook and buying that cookie cake was just a simple, ordinary event, but it felt to me like a red-letter, bold-type memo of grace. 

I'll cc you, if you like.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

10 years

July 20 marks ten years of marriage to my very best friend. 

A decade of laughter, learning to communicate, occasional Tupperware thrown across the room.  Three children by birth, one more by adoption, and a fifth child still growing in the womb.  Several church transitions.  A PhD earned, and a "real" career finally begun.  Looking to graduate to a bigger house after nine blessed years in this one.  Crazy, exhausting work.  A whole lot of joy.  Gallons of tears. 

We're still right in the middle of the hardest season of our lives, this insane heat and drought a fitting metaphor for the current state of our souls.  No, there's no luxurious tenth anniversary cruise on the horizon.  I'm pretty sure dinner is shaping up to be frozen pizza and bagged salad.  It's also Hummus Girl's fifth birthday; Princess Firecracker's third birthday is on Sunday.  So we'll celebrate our girls on Saturday evening.  I haven't even bought my love a card.  He asked me this morning what I might like for a gift. 

Oh, I know to many that sounds horrendous.  So unromantic.  Lackluster.  Unloving, even.  Let's just say it's a good thing we're so well matched.  Right now we're just trying to survive.  Together.  There'll be time for just won't be this weekend, I'm guessing.  And possibly not until 2013. 

Wish I could express my thoughts any better than this song by Sara Groves, but I don't think I'll try.  It says everything about the way my husband's love strengthens me.  I hope I make him feel the same way.  Happy anniversary, Dr. Husband.  (This is your card.) 

Speak in a summer tone
Pause in the after glow
Tenderly whisper my name
Tell me once again why I am your bride
So I can fly
So I can fly

Pause in your busy day
Look extra long my way
Wink at me across the room
Kiss me longer
Touch my arm when I am by your side
So I can fly
So I can fly

Oh how the little things
Strengthen my tiny wings
Help me to take on the world
When you love me there's nothing I wouldn't try
I might even fly
I might even fly
I might even fly.

Friday, July 13, 2012

DIY gone awry

Alternate title:  Make Me a Hero on the Internet

Which is why Dr. Husband didn't fuss about my taking photos of the colossal disaster that is our house. 

Two weeks ago it was "show ready," I promise.  And then we decided to redo the kitchen floor.  Now it looks like this.

Here's the frig before I came home to find it lying on its side.  In the dining room.  Unplugged.  {Side note:  refrigerators are not supposed to be horizontal.  They do not like this.}

Some of my hopefully-not-yet-rotten food in a cooler.  There's no pic of me making an ice run at 10:30 p.m. 

Refrigerator (now upright, still unplugged) and stove in my dining room.  We ate fast food for dinner, seated on the living room floor.  Oh, and Sonic run later.  Had to keep kids out of the house all afternoon and evening.  So just for grins I took Princess Firecracker to urgent care for what I thought might be a urinary tract infection.  Nope.  Rash.  Solution?  Over the counter anti-fungal cream.  Argh.  Then we went to the park, sans He Who Melts Down At Parks, and the aforementioned Princess Firecracker took up tantruming in his stead.  Good times. 

The contents of my pantry.  And some other garbage. 


And finally, My Hero.  He's been working in the kitchen for about 15 hours so far.  And a kind friend who, sensing our despair, offered to help.  It's 11:26 p.m.  He's still here helping.  Earlier he helped me plug the frig back in and set it back upright.  And replace all the shelves and contents which came crashing down in the process.  And wipe up the Thai chili sauce whose lid came off and ran all red and saucy down the shelves and onto the dining room carpet.  And pack ice around the eggs, creamer, and yogurt which have been sitting room temperature-like for several hours now. 

It's been a heck of a day.  Heck of a week, actually.  Oh, and did I mention we're supposed to leave in the morning for a brief weekend getaway? 

Should I promise "after" pics?  I'm certain once it's finished our house is gonna sell any minute.  Yes, I think I see a line of buyers waiting out in the street. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012


I decided to take advantage of the slighter cooler weather by driving the kids to a nearby park.  It's actually in a neighborhood, and probably meant to be a residents-only park, but that didn't stop us.  We were the only ones there.  Very fun, small playground, tetherball, swings, huge sand volleyball pit.

Three of my children had a great time.  Can you guess which one did not?  Would not walk.  Would not climb.  Would not do anything but stand mostly in one spot and cry, wanting to be held.

This is a child who can barely sit still at home or anywhere else (e.g. the library).  He is in constant motion, walking from room to room, climbing off and on the furniture.  So you'd think a park would be good for the sensory input he seems to crave, right?

He's been with us almost 14 months now.  Sometimes that seems like an eternity, and other times (like today) I am extremely aware of what a superficial dent we have made in the mountain of Shu's anxiety.  I want so much to be able to take all of my children on typical, kid-friendly outings and have all of them enjoy!  I'm not talking a raucous carnival; I'm talking a quiet, empty park.  Or a casual stroll around our neighborhood. 

I honestly have no clue what provokes such anxiety on these occasions.  A physical problem, perhaps, that causes him to feel fearful and unsteady the entire time?  (He continues to have trouble climbing stairs, and his physical therapist thinks he could benefit from orthotics for his feet.)  Except that we've gone to other parks on other days when he climbed and played happily, no problem.  The unfamiliarity of the park?  But he is totally fine in other new situations...has even surprised me at times with his independence!  It's puzzling.  And more than a little frustrating.

Forgive my little pity party today.  Dr. Husband jokes that I should stop being so shocked (shocked!) by Shu's random outbursts of fear or anxiety.  And yeah, after 14 months, I guess he's right.  I just wish it didn't put such a damper on our outings, e.g. Fourth of July where Shu freaked out at the tame driveway fireworks and ended up in the van, inconsolable.  Wish that one child's possible/probable anxiety/misery didn't make me so skittish that I want to hunker down and never take him anywhere.  'Cause that's just not workable with three other children, not to mention two parents, who kind of enjoy leaving the house from time to time, you know?  Silly, stubborn woman that I am, I just keep taking the risk. 

That's the ongoing struggle.  Managing the needs of one child while juggling the needs of the rest.  Sometimes those needs are going to contradict each other, and sometimes the well-being of the whole family takes priority over the demands of one kiddo whose full emotional healing, I'm learning, does not hinge solely on my perfect reaction in every specific circumstance.  Whew.  That's a burden too great for me, and I am not parenting an only child.  Overall I know that's best for Shu--to be around three (soon four) happy, well-adjusted siblings engaging with their environment, and to continue to be exposed to situations in which he can eventually learn that there is no need for fear or that he doesn't need to be literally held in my arms in order to sense that my love and protection are only a few feet away.

So we plod on, trying not to be so devastated by the meltdowns, with eyes wide open to celebrate the many occasions that go better than expected.  We acknowledge that we all continue to sacrifice.  Shu said goodbye to the "security" of a very narrow and predictable orphanage life for a much bigger, broader world that on many days still does not  feel safer or better to him.   And the rest of us forego any guarantee of peaceful family outings to the park or Home Depot or the pool, tantrum-free dinners or movie nights, etc. while flinging much grander plans like family vacations far, far into the unforeseeable future. 

My inclination is to feel lousy about even viewing our current lifestyle as "sacrificial."  I mean, I'm not living in a dirt-floored shack in a third world country.  I watch TV.  I have clean water, good food, and my A/C works, thank God.  Adoption took a big bite out of our bank account, but it's since been replenished, especially now that the adoption tax credit has finally come our way.  I don't even have that many kids. 

But I rather think that the Father is well aware of and well pleased with what we give up to know Him more deeply,  partnering with Him in laying our lives down to love in a way that does not come instantly, or naturally, or without great effort.  Comparing is irrelevant, anyway.  The cost of following God calculates differently for each of us, and He alone knows what it will be. 

Elisabeth Elliot, in one of her Gateway to Joy broadcasts talks about an old hymn written in the 1800's by a man named John Keble. "The trivial round, the common task, will furnish all we ought to ask; room to deny ourselves, a road to bring us daily nearer God."
Some of you, my faithful listeners, are working right now as you listen. The man in the carpenter shop. The combine. The UPS driver. The woman in the kitchen, the laundry, the bedroom, the bathroom. Is your mind set to hallow what you find? In other words, to make it holy, to make it an offering to Jesus Christ?  If it is, then you will find treasures--material for sacrifice. The trivial round. Let's say you're peeling onions for the soup. How many times have you peeled onions before? Same old onions. Same tears shed. Same necessity of feeding your family. But this is one of the givens of your life.  I love to think about the givens and the not-givens. Many things you long for which have not been given. But this trivial round of three meals a day--how many loads of laundry, how many bathrooms to clean, how many rugs to vacuum--"the trivial round, the common task, will furnish all we ought to ask." One of the things that it furnishes is room to deny ourselves--the opportunity day by day, for the love of God, to give up our right to ourselves, to glorify God in the way that we do the humblest work.
Parenting these kids, all of them, is my "given."  Whether happy day or crappy day, it's what I signed up for, unknowns and tears and apraxia and all.  If He can see this mess and hard work of restoration (and all the other regular parenting stuff) as treasure, worthy of sacrifice, I can only pray He'll give me vision and joy to see it the same way.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

another big girl in the house

After months of worry on my part and weeks of stress and effort, again, mostly on my part, it appears Princess Firecracker is potty trained!  We still haven't ventured too far from the house (or a potty), but she's had several accident-free days in a row.  Looks like my fears of her not being able to attend preschool in the fall, or worse perhaps, of having three in diapers come October, were unfounded. 

I'm super proud of her.  It's true what they say--when a kid is ready, she's ready.  Motivated entirely by self-confidence and the thought of being a "big girl," she couldn't have cared less about stickers or m&ms or any other parental trick-up-the-sleeve.  Which is fine with me, and what we all ultimately want--a child intrinsically motivated.

Here's a transcript from one of yesterday's sessions:

"It looks like a J!!!
Oooh, what will this one be?
That one looks like a snail!  Or a shrimp!
I'm going to have a long time going poop and I'll never get off.
Oh, some more goed in!
If I squeeze it out a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more, all day long, then I'll never get off, or clean up the pegs, or get back on the computer!"  

She's delightful.  (Might need something from her backpack while on the toilet.)

The downside is that I really can't get her to nap anymore.  And our house isn't quite big enough for me to effectively enforce a "quiet time."  So this mama is now even more desperate eager to hear Dr. Husband open the garage door at 5:53 each evening.  I had every intention of home schooling all the kids, but that was before "all" meant five or included the likes of Princess Firecracker and Shu.  [insert giant sigh of exhaustion]  Thankfully, God's grace is abounding, or at least sufficient, and with a clear conscience I look forward  to a couple of kids headed off to school in the fall! 

I've observed that P.F. suddenly seems older, less tantrumy, more in control of her emotions, more cooperative.  Even more cuddly!  My theory is that she now has control over the potty thing, so she doesn't need to fight us as much in other situations, current scenario in which she refuses a short nap even though it means she does not get to stay up late and watch fireworks with the big kids notwithstanding.  And ironically, though she's getting less sleep, she's plenty happy.  No more waking up groggy or super moody from naps.  Did I mention she's more cuddly?  Mommy likey.  

Yep, she's not a baby anymore.  Couldn't keep her off of Hummus Girl's bike a few weeks ago.  She crashed no fewer than six times, as seen in this actual unstaged crash footage. 

And each time she popped right back up, announcing "I'm OK!"'  Not a whimper; not a tear.  No fear of hopping back on to try again.  Let's just say she is, so far, the only one of my kids wired this way.  I'm fairly certain she didn't get that from me.

She's just her own unique self.  She earns her nickname every day, no doubt, but it's a joy to watch her approach age three with aplomb!  Maybe she can teach me a few things.