Friday, July 30, 2010

State of the Union

I started a little tradition when I was first blogging, even though I didn't realize it. I started writing birthday posts each year. Then one year, I blogged about something else entirely on July 30, and all 2 of my readers commented on the lack of birthday post. So, I'm back to my accidental tradition.

Today I turn 33 and am not yet old enough to care if people know my age. In some ways, my life has changed very little since last summer, and I still have wonderful warm fuzzy things to say about my family and friends, as they make my happiness quotient what it is. (Which is high.)

But the biggest change in my life has been our decision to adopt internationally, and it has truly changed me as a person--and we are still far from actually having a new kiddo in our home! Turning my focus outside of myself and focusing on the plight of orphans--not just MY orphan--has truly created a new passion in my heart. I find myself being more concerned about global issues and poverty. I find a few dollars here and there that I "didn't have" previously to help another family's adoption fundraiser or to buy more purposeful gifts that might help an individual in a developing country. Don't get me wrong--I'm still a selfish person, like most of us are, and I'm still a work in progress. But I'm so grateful for this renewal in my heart and spirit. I'm grateful for a new realm of education and inspiration that I've been introduced to, as well as some amazing people that have come into my life as a result.

My prayer this next year is for focus and patience, that I will keep my eyes on big pictures, rather than get bogged down in the daily. That I will be prayerful for our forever family of five, and not be stressed by adoption delays. That I will appreciate my role as Director of Development for the 2 kiddos I have already in my home, and not be overwhelmed by the vastness of that job description. That I will have wisdom in finances, and not be tempted by the things of this world, but that I will choose to live simply and make good choices. That I will choose to invest time and energy into my marriage, even when that status quo is acceptable and comfortable. That I will unabashedly share my new passion with others, with grace and heart, not with lectures and condescension. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. And it is the core of my being and the foundation of any happiness or success I have in life.

Happy birthday to me!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who is "lucky"?

I have a quick few moments (as Bird is sleeping and Monkey and Dad are at Target getting me a last-minute birthday card, I'm sure), and I was blog hopping and found one to share.

Here's a tidbit of adoption 101 that I've learned: adoption is not rescue. Adoptees don't like to hear how lucky they are or how grateful they should be, and it seems most adoptive parents don't really like to hear what saints they are for rescuing a child.

Now, don't get me wrong. At this stage in our adoption process, I don't mind hearing things like "We are so excited for you!" "I think what you're doing is a great thing." "We want to support you and your child, here's $10,000." That kind of thing. ;) But when our child comes home, I don't want him to hear from other people how lucky he is that we brought him to America, kind of implying that if he should never feel anything other than extreme gratitude towards us and his situation--which was totally out of his control. We (the parents) are the lucky ones, to be blessed with another child in our family, which is the reason we are adopting. (I believe it is possible to rescue someone, say from human sex trafficking, but you could do that without adopting.) Our future child is no more or less "lucky" to be in our family than our bio kids, and I'm sure all three of them will having varying degrees of appreciation for our existence at different times in their lives. :)

This is a short blog post from an adoptive mom of a child who was born with albinism. (Something I learned from this post is the phrasing of that last sentence. She is not "an albino.") Her conversation with a well-inentioned but nosey stranger at the local splash pad kind of pushed her over the edge. It is good food for thought.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We are in a crazy week between several days of being at the coast with Trent's fam and several days of having some of my fam in town. It's all good, it's just busy! I don't have time to post lots, so consider this your pictoral interlude. Also...STAY TUNED, because I have something very fun coming to my blog on August 1st. :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

The New Yorker (part 2)

This whole article in the New Yorker thing got me thinking existentially about parenthood realities and expectations. I mean, the greatest thing that's ever happened to you is also the hardest thing you've ever experienced? Seems weird, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
It's a digression, but I have to tell you, my PFB (Precious First Born) and I had a DOOZY of a day today, which ended with me having to physically hold his bedroom door closed for 20 minutes so he would stay in. He was on the other side screaming and throwing heavy object at the door and trying to get out. This was the culmination of a 45 minute battle of the wills over a 30 minute quiet time. I know. Irony much? See, when PFB doesn't want to be in time-out or quiet time, he just walks straight out of his room and defiantly tells you he won't be doing quiet time. Ever. And/or he climbs up on the dresser, removes the wall clock and changes it to show the exact time you've told him quiet time will be over, brings it in to you without realizing his fingers currently fiddling with the changer-thing on the back are betraying his covert op. And when you express disbelief in his truthfulness, he falls to the ground and screams at your disloyal love that would doubt his honesty. And when you (near the beginning of the battle when you are still calm and) tell him that the Wii-motes will be in timeout for 24 hours if he's not in his room in 30 seconds, he pushes you aside, runs into the living room and grabs the Wii-motes, running out the front door into the street declaring that you will never, ever get them. And then, after the 20 minute tug-of-war on the door knob, PFB exits the room like nothing ever happened. And then? PSB awakes screaming from her 49 minutes nap. So, yeah, I'm going to stick with "hardest job ever."
But THAT experience, on top of the processing I did in my last post, got me thinking about survival. This is a season in my life that will be gone sooner than I think. And even after a day like today, you might think I'd be glad. But I KNOW I'm going to be heartbroken when I no longer have itty-bitties in my home and in my arms. I don't want just to survive, but to thrive! So I started mentally cataloging things that have helped me, or things that I do when I'm on my game that I want to try to do more often. We'll make it a handy-dandy Brazenmommy's Survival Tips.
1) Find support.
Swallow your pride and ask for help. Find mamas who are in the same stage of life as you, who have had children with similar temperaments, etc. Ask hubby or grandma or auntie or a friend to please take the sweet little darlings out of your site for an hour or two so you can regain sanity. Get an intimate group of women with whom you can be totally honest, and don't forget to listen and encourage them as well.
2) Have balance, but choose to be positive.
I know I always appreciate hearing a "keepin' it real" story from another mom about a rought situation or day. It makes me feel like my kids and I are not total crazies. And I need those initmate friends that I can come to when things get BAD. But when other mamas are constantly being negative about parenthood, their children, their husbands, their prison-sentence/stay-at-home-ness, it really drags me down. I'd rather laugh a little about the insanity, then talk about how lucky we are.
3)Find something for yourself.
Blog. Make cupcakes. Sing in the choir. Get a pedicure. Read a novel. Grab a drink with a friend. GO ON A DATE WITH YOUR HUSBAND. Audition for a local musical. Get a part-time job. Whatever it is that will fuel your mind and body, make sure you have something to focus on other than child-rearing every once in a while.
4)Look at the big picture.
Someday, I will frame this quote on my wall: "The days pass slowly, but the years pass quickly." That sums it up for me! One of my favorite ways to get perspective is to glance at old pictures--and by "old" I mean a couple years old when my kids were babies. It reminds me how fast the time goes! It also reminds me how blessed I am. I also play a dangerous game with my mind and imagine what it would be like if one of my kids became very ill. Wouldn't I SO not care about the pee on the floor by the toilet? Wouldn't I be so much more patient with their squabbles? You may think I'm weird, but that little exercise slaps me a dose of reality and it's good.
5)Educate yourself.
Although I'd rather read a good novel, I also really appreciate when I find a good parenting book. One I loved was Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. I'm also re-reading Love and Logic for Early Childhood. (See mom? I do take your advice sometimes! She told me to re-read it.) I've got Strong-Willed Child sitting on my night-stand, on-deck. Please share in the comments if you've read one that you'd recommend. Nobody has all the answers and all children/parents are different, but it never hurts to seek out some professional help.
6)Build your faith.
Lord help me. Seriously. It is by the grace of God that I make it through each day. It is by the grace of God my children make it through the day sometimes. Whether it's worship music in the car, Scriptures in my wallet, a Bible study I am committed to...whatever I can manage in any given week, I can tell the difference it makes in me and in my parenting. I'm not sure if the Bible was referring to a child throwing a Buzz Lightyear at you when it says "He will not give you more than you can handle," but I'm taking it. I can handle this. You hear that, Buzz?! I CAN HANDLE THIS!
7)Learn to savor the moments.
Live in the moments. Don't miss these moments. Because they'll be gone before you know it. And we might not forget how hard it was, but we'll know it was worth it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The New Yorker (part 1)

Last week the New Yorker magazine ran a feature ad (on the cover, even) called "I love my children. I hate my life." It is a fascinating read. I mean, is that even possible? What do you think? The gist of the article was that parenting, while promising satisfaction and fulfillment, according to academic research, leaves mothers and fathers feeling less happy than their childless counterparts. It stirred up all kinds of heated discussions on all kinds of websites. Some readers were shocked and angered at the brazen concept, while others shouted their agreement.
I, as I more often find myself doing at this stage in life, tilted my head, squinted my eyes and said "Hmmm. Interesting." While the title itself put me off, I am neither appalled by nor in support of the concept. You see, I think being a parent is COMPLICATED. Day to day it can be a mixed bag of euphoria and despair. Heck, that can change by the hour. The subtitle of the article said "More joy, less fun." That is a little less caustic, no? Because unless you live in a world I am unaware of, parenting is really a lot of work. The daily grind of the minutia and the endless chores (he's out of clean underwear again, she spilled a large glass of something sticky all over the floor again, the sink is full of dishes again, none of their clothes fit again, your fingernails need to be cut again, I have to buy snacks for class again, we can't find your shoes AGAIN, you broke my one pair of sunglasses again, we're out of the-only-thing-you'll-eat-for-breakfast-Eggos again) is anything but fun.
But I do bristle a bit at the title of this article, maybe because we don't use the word "hate" in our house. Maybe because I've been pouring over adoption literature that has made me extra-sensitive to language that is used around children and how that might affect their self-esteem and self-image. Fact: my main job right now is to be a stay-at-home-mom. Fact: one of my primary identities right now is Mommy. For me to say that I HATE my life sends an awfully strong message that I don't want to send to my kids. The attempt at softening the blow by saying "But I do love them" didn't really work for me.
I'm not saying I can't relate to the research. (Especially a few mentions of parents in the midst of little/big battles of the will and wishing for adult conversations.) There have been many moments of parenting that I STRONGLY disliked. I find the entire role to be exhausting much of the time. I am overwhelmed to the point of tears frequently. Sometimes I feel SO LONELY and yet I am never ALONE. Yes, I'll admit. It does not make me HAPPY to change a poopy blow-out, move and install a bulky carseat, break up a sibling fight or wake up for the umpteenth time with a child for no good reason but that they'd rather scream than sleep. I agree and relate with the quote that "Loving one’s children and loving the act of parenting are not the same thing. "
But what I cannot relate to? Is dissatisfaction with my life! I cannot relate to regret over having my children. My job is harder, my days are longer, my freetime is less, my correspondence is weaker, my clothes/body/hair are dirtier, my arrival is later, my butt is bigger, my privacy is non-existent. But my life?
Even more? I am better.
Because I am a mother, I am a better person.
My love is bigger, my loyalty is deeper, my marriage is stronger, my faith is greater, and my joy--my JOY is beyond anything I thought possible before they came into my life.
So, you know what? Research be damned. (Sorry for the "d" word, mom.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Swimsuit Edition

I need to give a shout out to Auntie Tara, who has kept Sydney in the cutest and latest swimwear this summer. Check out her other suit, displayed here in the backyard setting:

And continuing in her fashion-forward trend, Sydney got her hands on a mascara tube, and obviously had watched Mommy closely, for she knew just where the goopy black stuff goes. Click to enlarge this pic to see how much she got on her actual eyelashes. It's a miracle she didn't poke her eye out!

It seems we have a girlie-girl on our hands!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Church of JPGs

My in-laws took the kids after dinner for a sleepover the other night. I will never, ever take that for granted! This time, I chose to spend my 4 evening hours hunched over the computer, going through my digital pictures from the last 2 years. I did some organizing, deleting, laughing, printing (the primary objective), and got choked up a few times. Pictures are like a second religion to us Bunches. We have taken thousands in the last 5 years alone, and going through them all at once may not have been, in all seriousness, a spiritual experience, but it let to one. I was just overwhemed with gratitude for my life and my family. No, it's not a piece of cake, we're so far from perfect, I have days when I want to scream and run away and/or tie up my children, but the big picture is one of immense blessing.
There is no way I could pick my favorite pictures of my kids. But if I HAD to show you two OF MY favorites that made me laugh and smile, brought back incredible memories, capture their personalities and took me to a very special stage of their lives, it would be these two precious pictures:

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Buck up, camper.

No one actually SAID that to me last weekend, but they could have and probably should have. We were reminded during this year's annual camping trip how powerfully the weather influences our experience. The first 24 hours were wet and cold. I was having a hard time keeping a positive attitude. I had hand-warmers inside my clothes and at one point I went to our van and turned it on just to use the seat warmer for a few minutes. I know that some non-campers out there will say in complete unbelief: THEN WHY DO YOU DO IT?!?! I asked myself the same question as I was laying inside a tent at 8pm, freezing, with 2 kids who didn't want to go to bed because it was still light outisde, but we could BE outside because it was raining! But, I came up with a few answers.
Because it's what our family does! Since I was a little girl. And anticipating it is half the fun. We pack up for days and get special treats for the drive.
Because I bought this hat for Sydney before she was even born and I love that she's wearing it now.
Because our kids and cousins get to be together and play and attitudes change and suddenly having goldfish in a plastic cup seems about the best snack EVER!
Because it's super special to this grandpa...
...and this grandma.
Because instead of playing Star Wars on the Wii, these boys are pretending Star Wars in the woods with their "light sabers" given by Nina.
Princess Leia?
Because when it's wet and cold, kids get to play in their camping pj's and boots until noon. And we still find places for the kids to sit and play--here they are getting ready to receive their bug kits.
Because they play for hours, getting dirty & wet, without a televsion or video game in sight.
If there are no bugs, they can collect moss.

Because even if the littlest ones won't remember this...
WE will remember and tell them "You've been going on this camping trip since you were BORN, so put your cell phone down and GET IN THE CAR!"
Because these two predestined best friends finally started noticing each other and playing together without prodding.
Because usually the sun does come out and Jojo presents her annual treasure hunt.

And everyone can enjoy the spoils!

So even after a rough year, I know I'll be back next summer and the summer after that and the summer after's TRADITION!