​Just a Mom

First, I’d like to welcome my new readers! So nice to have you here.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast called “Why I Write”. While introducing the guest author, the host listed a very long list of awards and credentials that accompanied this guest author. He then followed it up by saying let me read what she wrote in her bio herself.

It made me pause and think, what are my credentials, my titles? What would my bio be if I took away the wife and mom title? Who am I when I am not fulfilling those roles?

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I know I am a born again Christain, who has been saved and forgiven by grace. I am a sister to two, a half sister to three, a stepsister to two, a sister-in-law to many. I am a daughter, a friend, a lover. I have been a teacher, a nurse, a manager, a pet owner, an honor roll student, a dancer, a child from a broken home. I have loved and lost. I have tried and failed. I am not good at sports and am completely happy watching others play while cheering from the crowd. I have been in a band, worked fast food, even acted in church skits. I have been a makeup artist, a short-lived runner, and have traveled to about ten different states, and a few countries. I have been a domestic diva, a hobbyist writer, DIYer, an experimental gardener, a digital scrapbooker, and designer. I have planned and hosted many parties, showers, and even a wedding reception. I once was a military wife, a latch-key-kid, and a school bus rider. I have worn more used clothes than new, drank more tea than coffee, probably more sweets than veggies. I have wanted to be a fashion designer, architect, criminal investigator, judge, social worker, a speech pathologist, a writer when I grow up. I like to cook and bake. Being alone refreshes me. I am somewhere in between an introvert and well, a social introvert. I love to read and learn new things. Meeting new people both excites me and makes me feel very vulnerable. I can love for a very long time, yet put up walls when there is too much pain. I love working with people/kids with special needs and am raising two or three now. My heart can be much bigger than my reality. I like to be outside, just not in the sun or the wind or the heat or the freezing cold, or pouring rain. I am steady, faithful and honest. I try to hide my feelings but usually fail. I find it hard to be patient with people who have a lot of drama. I have been sick and healthy. I have gotten lost more than I care to admit. I sometimes wish I could sing and draw, paint much better than I can. I have cleaned more poopy underwear than I ever thought I was capable of. I have mothered children with health and behavioral issues I thought I was too weak to handle. I have also mothered children who have shown me just how weak I am.

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I am all of these things, have done all of these things and more. Yet, when it comes down to it who I am IS really a Christain, a wife, and a mom. All of the rest is just extra. I am completely fine with being “just” a mom!

 

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Reminders

As I am finally coming out of a bad cold, (It more or less knocked all energy out from under me for a few days.) my mind is able to piece together some recent reminders of where were still are.

Tomorrow is our adoption day…two years tomorrow! Sometimes it feels like yesterday others it feels like a lifetime ago.

Making our youngest’s freshly laundered bed tonight, I see the remnants of the use and abuse 12-14 weeks of leg casts did on his poor fitted sheet. I really need to buy him a new one. I am reminded of a hard mountain we climbed and conquered. The tests that were taken, the fears that were calmed, the friends we made.

In moments like the extremely ROUGH 30 minutes of yesterday morning, (Tears, tantrums, yelling, more tears, kicking, desperation, utter helplessness, complete silence, some of which was done on the way to the therapist’s office.) I am reminded of the damage done to our kiddos way before “us”. That we are not yet done with the healing process. That this may take longer than we’d like and we are in it for the long haul. Trying not to sit and stew a bitter stew with what the bio parents left for us to handle, to make do with, the chaos that is sometimes our life, the brokenness that comes screaming through an otherwise normal day.

Take our pee stained toilet that no one wants to clean. You have lots of boys you say. To us, it’s a reminder of the filth our kids grew up in that we are struggling to remove from their DNA.

These are powerful, sometimes little, sometimes halting and consuming reminders of not only where we are but how far we’ve come in just shy of three years together. Thankfully, these reminders are getting fewer and fewer. God has helped us tremendously. Honestly, while I can live without most of the reminders, I hope to never forget how far we’ve come. Never to lose sight of the deep valleys we have scratched our way out of. Never to lose the revelation of God’s ever giving grace to our lives.

Random Musings

  • When you’re way too busy to even sit down at your computer, or each time you actually attempt to write a blog post you are needed elsewhere. When life moves at such a pace that you can only make mental recordings. Such has been the times.
  • You know when things land heavy in your heart from time to time but you just have to wait for the right door to open at the right time? Those very doors may be opening here soon. Things are starting to line up just right.
  • The song, “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana sung by a five-year-old boy goes “No One Cares…” song from the middle of your vehicle at just the right time.
  • Your bible, one of the best places for your tears to land.
  • You’ve been telling your kids to “Look at me” for years but strangely after seeing Studio C’s “I Am the Captain Now” on YouTube you cannot say this to your kids ever again with a straight face and without almost breaking into an accent.
  • Mommies judging other mommies, not good. Imagine if we were to strengthen each other instead.
  • The value of your five-year-old saying, “I think I should try and go to the bathroom before we go.” And then using the restroom! Anyone with a child or two who have had bathroom issues knows the exact weight of this.
  • How rare being quiet and polite are.
  • What sorting through a huge pile of Legos that your oldest son brought home from his work can do for a child and an adult.
  • The hope one has in Jesus for that person who is lost and doesn’t know it.
  • The relief in finding the bullet point icon/button just in time to write a post like this.
  • God opening doors you thought were closed.
  • Good shoes…no need to say more.

Sticks and Stones

The other night I was reminded of the glaring differences between our family and families not affected by trauma.

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You can buy this adorable print here.

There are many things “regular” (what is regular anymore anyway?) folks joke about and/or just throw out in conversation that no one thinks twice about. Unless you are my family. Maybe I am hypersensitive to certain topics. Maybe I can overreact. But this is where we are for now.

Take the game of cops and robbers. The old-school game of pretend where the “good” kids-the cops protect citizens from the “bad” kids-the robbers. Now imagine it on steroids. Where gang members are involved, along with the robbers. Your kids found chains somewhere and have their sibling’s hands bound in those said chains. No more cops and robbers. Then we have hide and seek. Again a simple innocent child’s game. When things look a bit suspicious you start checking things out and see signs that are more fitting for a horror story than a child’s game posted all over your yard. No more hide and seek. Lots of teaching going on here. You get pulled over for going a bit too fast and the child with you has a look of complete fear on his face. The police officer has to calm your child and let him know he is not taking you to jail. Simply, Mom was driving a bit too fast. Raise kids whose birth parents were in and out of jail so many times that it’s just a way of life. Going to jail is such a huge topic of discussion to our younger kids. It’s like it’s no big deal. You get caught, go to jail and get out. No biggie. Let’s rethink this okay?

Joking about race…really SO many of us do it. Let’s be honest. Yet, when one of your children is drawn to parts of their culture that aren’t the greatest, one tries to steer that child down a safer road. Not everything about each of our cultures needs to be embraced.

Make a joking comment to two of my kids about food and eating and they simply cannot brush it off and enjoy a laugh with you. Going without food and eating rotten food for so long make certain things much less funny. Comedians-need not apply.

Now I am not one of those people who is offended by every little thing everyone says or does but when you have a child with special needs certain words become hurtful. When your child is a different race than you, you become more aware of your own probable racism and of those around you. When your child has been through certain types of trauma and you are living out the effects of that you become more protective of what your child hears and sees.

For the most part, when those around us are made aware that certain words or topics affect us and our children differently they are more than willing to change and are apologetic about it. For that, I am grateful and have been fortunate. Sometimes it just takes a few moments to explain why those things are not appropriate to help someone see things differently and make our world better. Sticks and stones do break bones, but contrary to the old child’s saying, words do hurt, sometimes pretty bad.

Addicted

As you more than likely know, we brought home a sibling group of four in the beginning of 2015. We went from a household of three to a household of seven overnight. To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement. But one of the first things we noticed was our son’s addiction to video games. He (Chief) was a month shy of 11 when we got him.

Now when we were told about the kids from CYFD, one of the things we were told was that he had been diagnosed with a learning disorder and he liked to play video games. “Okay, no problem,” we thought. However, the extent of it was not told to us. For the sake of this post, I am going to focus on the video game addiction and how it intertwined deep into his brain and personality. Socially he was awkward and behind. He was and still is a quiet kid. But when he did anything, draw, play it all centered around video games. He only drew video game related characters and scenes. He pretended (more like thought) he was in a video game. Seriously, it was strange and at times scary. We’ve all heard the stories of foster kids killing their foster parents. Well, those fears weren’t too far from home or our mids. To engage him in normal conversation was very hard. He hadn’t had much practice at it.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity we didn’t pull the plug on the video games right away, even though it was obvious that not only our second oldest son had a problem, but so did the other two. Our youngest soon got too used to watching videos, albeit educational. We did go through the gaming devices that they came with and got rid of the questionable games, apps, etc. We started to limit the screen time as well.

We also noticed that when the kids would get off of their devices or stop watching anything they really struggled transitioning back into reality. They would remain in a fog state for some time. The longer the screen time, the longer the fog time. It changed their attitudes and behaviors, never for the better. Today, they are very rarely on the computer for anything, unless at school. Video games are a thing of the past. Movies are only occasionally on the agenda. T.V., well, we don’t have one and don’t watch it online either.

Chief had the hardest time with the restrictions. Honestly, gaming was all he knew. No matter where they lived growing up, how little money they had he was never without an XBox or gaming device. In foster care he was able to stay up very late playing video games, watching inappropriate things without any supervision. It was a means of escape for him. He hated when we’d limit screen time or actually take away his devices as a consequence. He had withdrawals. But it was okay.  Not easy, but okay. We knew it was for his best interest.

Like I said we didn’t go cold turkey with him or the other kids, and at first, we watched way more movies than we ever did with our oldest two. Seriously, the movies started out as a way for all of us to be able to sit in the same room without chaos. But today after a long and hard, but definitely not the hardest battle, he has changed SO much. His sketch pads are filling with everyday items, happier storylines, and he’s even made up his own characters. His imagination has soared. When he plays he plays how a “normal” kids should play. I can’t remember when we have seen him act out video games. He reads. He creates. Best of all he engages. You should see his smile. Chief has really matured and grown into a funny, sincere young man. He knows he was addicted. He still wants to play from time to time but even though he hasn’t said it I believe that he is grateful we took the stance we did and took away screens of all sorts. (You can read a bit about our stance on screen time here)

A side note on learning disabilities and screen time. They do not and should not go hand in hand. It only hinders brain development and growth. What kids with LDs need are hands-on experiences, outdoor fun, books, engagement from adults, real life. They need to be challenged to learn, not pacified. They need to see what they are capable of in the real world, not some fantasy digital world. Though he still has his academic struggles, he has made great gains. He is learning to use his brain in ways he never has. He has even stated that his brain would hurt in the early days with us.

I also want to state that Chief was not the only person in our house addicted to electronics. His was just the worst. Yet God used it to reflect and show us our own shortcomings and pitfalls where electronics were concerned. Isn’t it funny how God does that? Sometimes our children are the perfect mirror.

Media Fast

Our pastor recently challenged our church to a two-week media fast. He had been preaching on the dangers of media and video addiction. Until we got our younger kids we lived pretty old school, no TV, rarely a movie, very limited time on the computer for our kids and for us. Other than the occasional show on the internet and watching the Red Sox via MLB.TV our screen time was limited. I plan to write a future post about our families reality with video game and technology addiction. For now, I want to focus on the media fast results.

Our pastor introduced us to the Glow Kids book. Let me tell you it is a MUST read, kids or no kids. I simply cannot recommend it enough. We have been reading it as a family with the older kids and individually as well. It will open your eyes in more than one way.IMG_2654

So, the results of those two weeks without media. Well, for the kids there wasn’t much of a negative change. (Again more on this in a future post.)

But here are some of the things we did instead of watching, playing, and/or listening.

 

IMG_2612After dinner wiffle ball.

IMG_2616Sorting through LEGOs from eldest son’s work. This was seriously relaxing and addictive.

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Chalk drawing.

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IMG_2611Just beginning outside. Can’t beat this sky.

IMG_2638Photobombing the tree climbers.

IMG_2639Trust falling from the tree.

We baked cookies. Hung out as a family. Played LOTS of board games. Had friends and family over. Went hiking. Just did more stuff together.

Did we get bored, of course? But boredom can lead to great imagination. Did the kids cheat on the fast? No, they are freed from those addictions. Me? Yes, I checked Instagram here and there. I checked the Red Sox scores. My blog posts were prewritten so all I had to do was push publish. BUT, I wasn’t chained to my phone. Even though I did start cutting back before the fast, I know I could SO easily go back to listening to podcasts, checking this and checking that all of the time. So, for me, I need to keep my phone off of my person and in an out of the way place. I have enjoyed the quiet, though too much quiet made me uneasy. I have enjoyed not being as distracted. I have enjoyed a clearer mind. For Hubby, it was a positive experience as well.

If I could encourage you at all to do a media fast yourself and as a family. It will be WELL worth it. Look around you when you are out. How many kids have devices keeping them entertained? How many people are walking around looking down at their phones? How many people have earbuds in, intentionally disengaging from society? How many times do you look at your phone, computer for non-essential things? How many times do you use the electronic babysitter? You may be surprised at what you see and observe. Also, read the Glow Kids book. I am seriously thinking of buying a bunch and handing them to our kids’ school principals, teachers, to family members, etc. It is just that good, that important, and that convicting.

IMG_2641Saw this shirt while thrifting. Thought it was so fitting during our media fast. If you do this fast, I’d LOVE to hear how it went for you and your family.

Spice Organization

IMG_2445We have a lot of spices, perhaps more than the average household. With three adults who cook, two of whom LOVE spicy, flavorful food they quickly add up. They also get out of order very easily. (If you know me I thrive on order. Being able to just blindly reach into the cabinet and pull out the spice I need is peace to my mind and soul.) So I put on some podcasts and went to work.

IMG_2446I bought a pair of those 3-tier spice racks. My plans were canceled when the racks didn’t work. They actually took up too much space.

IMG_2444Organizing is not always mess-free.

IMG_2447Done. Now the top two shelves are not full. I just have everything pulled to the front for easy access. I did this about a month ago and so far it looks like this. SOOO nice! I tried to group them together on the bottom shelf, baking spices, herbs, hotter ones (chili powder, etc.), rubs and so on.