Morning Moms

I have been parenting toddlers for what seems like a decade… oh wait, it has been. And now we’ve also added teenagers to our repertoire. So after parenting toddlers to teens for a few months now I have had a major revelation. Mornings with kids SUCK. I remember rolling over to my husband at 5:30 am after hearing multiple babies and toddlers awakening under our roof, and I would groggily say “Why does God hate us more than anyone else? What have we done?”

We would try to remember to “enjoy it” because “it will go by fast”. But it didn’t go by fast. There were some mornings that were more blissful than not, but mostly it was just a comedy of errors in which I was braless and trying not to cuss, while attempting to keep multiple small children quiet, so that they wouldn’t awaken the other multitudes. I would cook, what felt like 15 rounds of oatmeal and eggs and smoothies and Kix, some how waffles and omelets, and even Cinnamon Toast Crunch made appearances as well. And eventually I would conclude that everyone had awoken and everyone was sufficiently nourished-  we could now shift into something that should have felt like a productive day…

But this “twilight zone” of waking up with small children and trying to feed everyone and not accidentally kill anyone or say any words that you didn’t want them using in preschool- it seemed to last hours each morning.

We would consistently remind ourselves that this stage would not last. At some point our children will sleep in, though the morning and we won’t even have to make breakfast! Ever! We would smile and become giddy at the mere thought of it.

That was then.

This is now.

When I wake up, on the rare occasion that an alarm is jolting me awake, and meander out to the living room/kitchen/dining room area of my home this is what I see.

ImageThese children who sucked a decades worth of mornings from me have “made themselves breakfast”. The thing I’d always hoped for. And all I see is empty things. Empty syrup. empty boxes, empty juice carafes and empty milk cartons. Doors are missing and there are ALWAYS a lot of blankets. Everywhere.

The mess might consist of entire loaf of bread, with each piece having one bite taken out of it. Or Kix being found in every drawer and crevice of my home. If I am lucky it was “just eggs” and there are only a few that didn’t make the pan.

Image-1In case you’re wondering. This isn’t better than being woken up. It isn’t really worse either. It just is.

Now, the teenagers do not wake up for breakfast. When given the opportunity to sleep in, they do. This is wonderful. But this is also a predicament. I have never once seen them eat breakfast. Before a big test, before a day at the gym, before a dance competition, never. They just quietly get ready and stumble out the door. And I wonder, “Did they get any nourishment? Will they survive?”

The moral of the story is this: The morning time routine with kids doesn’t ever get easier. It just changes. So those moms out there spending HOURS with small children before the sun has even made an appearance. The moms who have served three meals, to the same child,  before 8 am. This to shall pass. But what’s coming is just a new crazy town. You might not be in your pajamas for a few hours before day break. But it is still just as crazy. Being  a mom in the morning is just plain hard.

 

 

Road to Congo: Our Adoption Story Part 2

Now that we had decided we would adopt internationally to add to our family, we had to decide where to adopt from. There are probably hundreds of places that you can adopt from, but we knew only about China, Russia, and Africa. Truly at the beginning of this process we were totally open to wherever God would have us adopt from.
One thing we knew all along was that “God knew”.  We knew we had to ask the questions, but we also knew that God knew where our children would be from.

We started to think about all the places where there were children who needed families and suddenly, it became totally overwhelming. We were paralyzed with indecision about where we should adopt from.

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Because we knew there was no time for fear and indecision (I had already waited 2 years, people!), we decided to decide and to decide once and for all where we were going to adopt from. Once we settled on that, Congo was actually an easy decision. Congo was our introduction to this whole international adoption thing and it just made sense. At the time adoptions began in Congo, adoption agencies were boasting (falsely) a 9 month start to finish adoption process, the US government was offering a massive tax credit for adoptive parents, and we had a Congolese connection with Andy’s sister. So, we decided: Congo.

Now that we decided, we selected our agencies (we needed two- one for the domestic side and one for the international side) and we started the whole paperwork process. I’m not going to bore you with this, suffice to say- everything you’ve heard about the paperwork involved for adoption is true. If you plan to adopt, buy yourself a new pack of pens and plan on spending many waking hours filling out paperwork. Luckily, I am organized and driven so I dove right in. For someone like me, the paperwork was a breeze. My favorite game as a child was to play “office” so this was all fun for me. I planned date nights for Andy and I to just fill out paperwork and I actually loved every minute of it.

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Once we were signed on with agencies and filling out paperwork, we knew the next thing that would happen was a whole hell of a lot of waiting. So we decided to get to know what we didn’t know. I knew of two adoptive families through my job at Compassion, so I called them up, told them we were adopting and invited ourselves over to dinner at their homes. That was one of the best things I did during our wait. These families were open and honest about adoption- the good, the amazing, the bad, and the awful and it was just what we needed to hear. Like everything in my life, I had an unrealistic set of expectations about what adoption would be like. (Honestly, this is one of the biggest struggles with prospective adoptive parents- unrealistic expectations.) So meeting with families who were 2, 3, 5 years into the process and had their children home was really helpful. It enabled us to lower the bar and set realistic standards.

We decided early on to adopt siblings instead of just one child. The cost was much lower to adopt two children at once, rather than to adopt twice, and we knew we wanted more than one child, so it was easy to just do it all at once. We figured we didn’t know what we didn’t know about just having one kid, so we dove in (Andy and I tend to do this a lot..!).

Someone told us to “get the youngest kids you can” and that is sound advise (but it doesn’t address the fact that trauma impacts the brain even in utero). But getting younger kids can make the attachment and bonding processes easier, so there is that. We figured since we wanted two kids we would need to up our age limit a bit so we would have a better chance of getting a referral sooner, so we decided any gender, two siblings under 5 years old and that was our criteria.

Now that we had the big decisions made, paperwork underway and the waiting began we needed money. And lots of it. In the next part I’ll share how we raised funds for our international adoption.

XO,

CELINA - signature

Back to School, Back to School, to show mom I’m not a fool…

In our neighborhood, today is the first day back to school! For those of you on the east coast, this seems like a debacle, I know.

Teachers are angels if you ask me. I can not keep it together through the sumer with just five kids. And I am not trying to teach them anything (except how to clean up their own d*&%$ messes). I think teachers should make millions, and some should make more. I am eternally grateful for amazing teachers. We love our little school, and the family feel of it.

I am the mom who writes a note to the teacher as soon as I find out who she is! I always want to give them a little insight into my kiddos. Here are (slightly altered) excerpts of my notes this year, enjoy.

Dear Tre’s teacher:

11013263_10153096827077081_3783916387844373303_nI am sorry.

He is not the ideal student for a public school setting. He will hate sitting there all day, and will create chaos and fun to get out of it . But he will also be super kind, super funny, and tell great stories.

He is sensitive and intelligent. And cannot focus for more than 15 seconds: Unless he is interested in what you’re talking about. If WWII history, weaponry, and strategic warfare are apart of third grade curriculum, you’re in luck. He is also very interested in the human body. He wants to be an inventor and surgeon, and a marine.

He knows a lot about chickens and pretends to know a lot about everything else.

You can fight him all year, or you can learn to work with his crazy, it’s up to you. Try to enjoy!

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Dear Demetrius’ Teacher:

20610_10153096827057081_2495487273198696751_nThis boy will be your biggest asset or your hardest kiddo. You get to decide. If he feels loved and safe, he will do anything and everything he can to help you, and succeed in your classroom.

He may not be the smartest kid in here, but there will not be another student who tries harder. His work ethic and no-fail attitude will get him wherever he chooses to go.

He acts tough, but is the most sensitive child I have ever known. He wants to be liked by everyone and wants people to know that he cares about them too.

He has experienced more loss and trauma in his short life than most adults I know, therefore he carries himself like an adult, he is mature and wise. But remember he is still a little boy who makes mistakes.

And whatever you do- don’t take away his recess. We will all be in trouble if you do that.

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Dear Laila’s Teacher:

11866425_10153096826997081_1346590263942210941_nI mean, look at her, she’s perfect. I don’t even need to write you a note. Except to say that sometimes she won’t tell you if she doesn’t understand, or if she needs help. She needs to know that you think what she has to say is important. Once she knows that you want to hear from her, you will.

She is sweet and kind, and will do whatever she can for a friend. Her two bestest friends are in class with her this year. I am not sure if it will be blissful or a little dramatic. But if it is (dramatic), please help them through it. I want my daughter to know that women are strong and supportive, and that friends are for life. Help them see each other’s strengths and that there is time and space for all people.

Lastly, she told me she will never wear a dress again. So this is the first and last day you’ll see her in this over sized thing. Enjoy the cuteness while it lasts.

Love,

AMANDA - signature

Ladies! Ladies! Ladies!

As you may have gathered from reading this blog, or you probably know us personally since we are not yet famous on the internet, Amanda and I are both adoptive moms. If you are an adoptive mom yourself, then you know that this comes with it’s own unique challenges. One of the things that is, to me, the most important about being a mom- adoptive or otherwise- is having a support network. Amanda is amazing at this because her natural personality is that of a gatherer and encourager. So, she has 10 million friends. Also, she is an expert in the field of Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®) which is an intervention model for a wide range of childhood behavior problems stemming from trauma (adoption). So Amanda has kind of forced me to join a support system in the way she gathers people and then forces me to join her.

I remember vividly three years ago when she begged, cajoled and basically dragged me to my first adoptive moms retreat. It turned out to be the first one this organization put on and it was just a small group of women in Estes Park. When I finally signed up days before the retreat, I said on my form, “I will not come unless you put me in a room with Amanda Purvis”. (I can’t believe they didn’t just reject my application then and there…). It was a good retreat and I was glad I went, but when year two of the same retreat came around, I had to be dragged again. I went, because I know when Amanda isn’t effing around. It was right after the retreat that year that the organizer of the retreat approached Amanda and I (probably because of our good looks and contagious humor) and asked us to join the planning committee. NOW. NOW I was on board. “I get to be the boss? Yes! I’d love to join you!” Ok, so I’m not the boss at all, but I get to give my wonderfully wise opinion? Yes! I’m IN!

Turns out it was a great decision (not for us to be on the planning committee but to join this community of women and yeah, OK the planning committee sure hasn’t suffered since we joined either). Passion For Orphans is amazing. Yearly, Lisa Stucky and her wise and beautiful planning committee plan a retreat for up to 100 adoptive moms. The retreat is organic. We don’t have Jen Hatmaker come speak (but dear Lord, please let me meet her so she knows what good friends we should be) or anyone else you have probably heard of, but we do have women like her. Women who are willing to share from the depths of their hearts in order to help free your heart. We have worship and though this is a “Christian” retreat, anyone is welcome and we don’t push any brand of religion on anyone. We spend a weekend talking, resting, building community and sharing our hurts and joys over the beautiful tragedy that is being a mom- adoptive or otherwise.

Though the retreat is billed as an adoptive mom retreat, it really isn’t just for those who have adopted. It’s for those who are supporting those who have adopted, those who themselves were adopted, foster moms, orphan advocates and those who work in any kind of orphan care or have a passion for the hurting. The retreat organizer isn’t even an adoptive mom-this is just her passion (I’m telling you, Lisa Stucky is a.m.a.z.i.n.g) it’s just her heart to support us and it is so, so lovely.

Would you join us this year for our retreat? Or do you know someone who would benefit from the rest and who could use the encouragement and love we have to share? COME. COME to this retreat or tell your friend who needs to come that registration is now open! We’d love to have you! You can even put Amanda down as your roommate if you want.

http://passionfororphans.org/retreats/

XO,

CELINA - signature

Sacredness and Parenting- Maybe they’re not a dichotomy?

So, I am amanda.
I tend to write a lot about parenting. I think it’s mostly because it is the biggest battle in my life. It’s the area that needs the most pruning, the area in my life that reminds me that I desperately need grace.
A lot of it.
Like way more than you.
After much contemplation, and self-depricating discovery, I think I fail my kids the most when they mess up. I lack in compassion. To say it lightly.
 When my kids mess up, my sub-conscious thought loop says something like: “If I parent them well enough, if I discipline them enough, if I teach them enough, they won’t mess this up again.”
Ha.
There are a couple problems with this mindset:
  1. THEY ARE GOING TO MESS THIS UP AGAIN.
  2. When I think it’s my job to change my child’s behavior, I suddenly take on all future burdens of their choices. Therefore it is extremely difficult to approach them with compassion, keeping our relationship the primary concern.

I recently read an amazing book called “Tattoos on the Heart” by Gregory Boyle. I will be writing several posts that have been prompted from the reading of this amazing book. One line that I read caused me to tear up, the kind where you have to stop reading because you can’t see the page any longer. So I stopped reading and just took it in to me. To the depths of me.

“The poet Gallway Kennel writes, “ Sometimes it is necessary to teach a thing its loveliness.”
And when that happens, we begin to foster tenderness for our own human predicament. A spacious and undefended heart finds room for everything you are and carves space for everybody else.”
And this is it for me. The true struggle in my parenting has nothing to do with my kids, not even with my kids from hard places who have been abused and left, who have big hurts and burdens too heavy to carry. The true struggle for me is not in teaching my kids, or approaching them with compassion. Because it is so much deeper than that. It is this idea that until I have deemed my own self lovely, until I see myself the way God sees me, every time my kids mess up, every time they fail, it will engulf me because it reminds me of my own ugliness. Without the understanding of who I am in Christ, my children’s failures reflect to me- my own brokenness.
The idea that a “spacious and undefended heart finds room for everything you are, and carves space for everybody else”… That is it. Until I truly know my own loveliness, until I see myself through His eyes, I will not have space in my heart for their brokenness.
I sat there on the plane, crying into my book, and asking God how. How can I change the way I see myself so that I have room for all of the broken people I love? In that moment I knew,  my disgust towards those I love most is not a reflection on them, it is a direct reflection on me. What now God?
And he spoke to me quietly, through the drum of the jet engines and babies crying, through the dross and brokenness of me, and He said in that inaudible whisper on my heart, “You have to carve out time to hear from me, through the community and people I’ve given you, through my word. Until you see yourself worthy, no one will ever measure up.”
So now a few days have passed, and believe it or not, my kids keep messing up. But I am trying to remember that I am sacred, and so are they. That their choices don’t reflect on my score card, cause my score card has already been tallied. And I won.
And so did they,
I am trying to wrap them up when their ugly bits show, and remind them of their loveliness.
I am certainly not perfect, but this shift has been monumental for me.
“We squirm in the face of our sacredness, and a true community screams a collective “don’t move.” The admonition not to move is nothing less than God’s own satisfaction at the sacredness, the loveliness that’s there in each one- despite what seems to be a shape that’s less than perfect.”
Father Greg Boyle
AMANDA - signature
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Dear Moms

Dear Moms,

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life here in this small town and how it has come to be “my ridiculously amazing life”. Let me first get this straight with you. My life has a million ups and downs. My children are far from perfect, my husband is far from perfect and obviously, so am I. But somewhere in the past few months there has been a shift. A shift toward appreciation. A shift toward a settled life. In many ways, I’ve come to accept that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing.

One of the amazing and imperfect aspects of my life is my friendships. I can’t say I’ve struggled to make friends during my life (though at times, I’ve struggled to keep them), but as an adult with a family, we all know it’s a lot harder to find people that not only do you connect with, but your kids and your spouse connect with, too. There’s a lot of moving parts. Attitudes, opinions, play styles, hobbies and interests. It’s hard to find people who share those same things. Not that all of your friends need to share all of that with you and yours, but it helps to have a few things in common.

In the previous season of my life, I isolated myself a bit. I was at first a new mom with two adopted kids. Then I was a mom with two newly adopted kids and a baby and I felt insecure. Insecure about my position. I had no idea how to parent and in nine months I was blessed to abundance with two children (3 & 5 at the time) and a surprise newborn. I didn’t know ….well, I didn’t know anything. And I felt insecure about the looks I got waddling around with a baby in utero and two brown skinned kids. So I kept to myself and I didn’t really try to make friends. Now, I’m over it. This is who we are. Family of five with a couple different colors. Take it or leave it.

Anyway, once I got over my own insecurities and adjusted to our new life, here is how, in the last season of my life I have made friends. If you are lonely or wanting to expand your circle or desperate for company, here’s a few tips from my own life and friendships.

1. Get out with the kids

The library, local museums, parks, these are all places where other moms hang out. It is very easy to start a conversation with a mom if you are both pushing your toddlers on the swing. You don’t have to jump down anyone’s throat or anything, but you clearly have things in common. If you find out it’s just that you both have toddlers- no big deal. You don’t need to take everyone home, but you can test the waters everywhere you go. Fishing for friends.

2. Stay local

It is WAY easier to hang out with people who live near you than it is people who live far away. I have two wonderful friends who I only get to see every six weeks or so because they live 30 minutes away. We have a million things in common and all the things that matter: our kids like to play together, our husbands are friends and we love to share deeply. But with naps and school and activities, it is hard to drive 30 minutes each way to spend time with people. We do it and we maintain those connections, but it’s easier to have friends nearby. There’s a great little place in our town that we like to hang out at. It’s actually a biergarten, but it’s kid friendly. It’s set up in a way that kids can run around and parents can chat easily. It’s a perfect place to go and meet people who live nearby. Find places like this where chatting with others is easy and natural and spend time there. Make local haunts your favorite places. You’re sure to run into a friend, someone you see at church but haven’t talked to or someone who looks like they want to be your friend (keep your eyes out for desperate, wide-eyed looks bordering on insanity. This is the look of a mom).

3. Start conversations

This should go without saying. If you are lonely, don’t isolate. Talk to people when you are out. A friendly conversation can lead to a friendship. As it was with Amanda and I: we were sitting next to each other at the nail salon and I liked her tattoo. So, I asked about it. That simple question led me to my BFF. How easy was that?? As Amanda tells it now that she knows me, she knows how hard I actually worked for our newborn friendship. She gave me her info and twice before she ever pursued me, I pursued her. It was hard, but I knew it was worth it and I was lonely.

4. Make friends with your neighbors!

Hands down this is the best way to make friends. A few weeks ago I hosted a neighborhood BBQ. I have been wanting to do this for some time and I finally decided that I wouldn’t let any more obstacles stop me and I didn’t care how many people came or didn’t come. I printed up invitations, and the kids and I walked them to all of our neighbors. It was a smashing success (and not just because I accidentally got smashed). I was able to make new connections and pursue people for friendships after the BBQ. I met people I hadn’t met that live right on my own block. This also helped me to lay down expectations of what a friend should look like. Lots of my neighbors are older and some are empty nesters, but I can befriend anyone. Who says my friends all have to be like me?

5. Don’t be afraid to approach someone who looks like they should be your friend

I recently missed an opportunity. My kids and I were walking downtown when I saw a white woman crossing the street with a brown baby in her arms. She had a friendly and open face and I wanted to grab her by the arm and forcefully request that she be my friend. I suppose my method would have scared her away resulting in the lost opportunity anyway, but still, I could have tried to chat with her. Instead, we smiled big at each other and said hello. Here is a woman who most likely has something in common with me (I’m making some assumptions here that this was her child, ect), and I could have forged a connection. The very next day I was at the splash pad with the kids when I saw a lady come in with her obviously adopted son. I watched her for a while and before I could approach her, I didn’t see her again. Then suddenly she was behind me, grabbing me desperately and asking if we could be friends. (Ok, it wasn’t like that exactly, but she approached me). We exchanged numbers and I’m sure we will see one another again. As she said, “We need to stick together”. Amen, sister. Amen.

6. Be approachable

This is a big one for me. Having adopted children, we get a lot of questioning looks. People want to know “the story” and I’m not a billboard. I don’t want to tell everyone how my children came to be mine, what happened to their parents or where “I got them”. It’s nunya. I have had to intentionally open my face and lift my head and avoid the stares in order to be approachable. If someone comes up and is inappropriate with their questions, I can cut the conversation short real quick. But I don’t have to assume everyone wants to pry. I can look up, smile and be available for conversations.

7. Go where you go and be there

Do you attend church? Go to a gym? Wherever you go, be there. Meet people. Stay and talk after class or church. All of your friends don’t have to be mom friends. They can be whoever. Friends you meet for coffee without the kids. But if when you go somewhere, you are all there and fully present it’s more likely you will meet someone. Put down your phone (this applies to all situations) and say “hi” to someone who looks like they should be your friend.

What do you think? Can you try a couple of these things? Do you have other best practices for finding friends? Friends are the best and we need them. We need a tight circle of people loving us, hugging us and kicking our asses when we need it. Whether you are a mom or not. You need friends. Step out and see if you can’t meet one new person this week!

XO

CELINA - signature