Good Parenting ISN’T Easy

The other day at my 60 something appointment since February I got two comments, in regards to our big family, ones that I get too often.

“It must be hard.” and “You seem so calm.”

First of all, parenting brings the best out in a person but it can bring out the worst as well. My husband and I are no more “special” than the next parent. And trust me we have been pushed to our limits more than our fair share on this parenting journey. So if you think I am calm…thank you. But really you are looking at the work God has done in me or you just caught me at the right moment.

Second, of course, it is not easy. Good parenting is never easy. Raising a child into a functioning, civilized, caring human being, one who knows they are capable of reaching their potential takes work. That is raising them from day one, with your DNA. Throw in someone else’s’ DNA and all that goes into raising kids from foster care and no it is not easy.

Today I see things in a different light. I used to take so much for granted when I only parented our bio kids. Sometimes it takes a broken mirror to show you just how important the little things you did really are. So many of the little moments, just talking about the everyday things like “Oh, look at that bird,” all of the small touches, the little everyday connections, if missing can really affect a child. Not to mention when bad stuff happens.

My husband and I truly feel no different than the next good parent trying their hardest. We have no special super powers (though I wish we did, they’d sure come in handy). We haven’t taken any over the top intense training to prepare us for this. A lot of it has been off the cuff parenting, a LOT of praying and yes, a lot of failing.

Moms and dads, don’t let the media or those around you pressure you into feeling like you are not a good parent. None of us are great…well okay there are those among us. None of our lives are Pinterest perfect. (At least no one I know.) We all make mistakes, we all yell at times, we all lose it and you know what…that’s okay. We are showing our kids that it’s okay to be human, to be less than perfect. It’s okay it mess up. They get to see how we handle failure, how we handle a stressful situation, a major plot twist in life. To me, that is what real parents do. If you don’t have laminated ABC’s on your walls…it’s okay. Your kids don’t care. They want your time and attention. They want to be bored and discover things on their own. They need to fall and figure out how to get up on their own.

Parenting isn’t for sissies for sure, but I really haven’t met too many of those, so you are more than likely going to be just fine as a parent. So pull up your big girl/boy panties and stand your ground, spend time with your kids, make the hard decisions (I have said this more than once, “I want you to be safe more than I want you to be happy.) Make your kids do chores, teach them to forgive, show them how to notice and accept others around them. Give them new experiences in and out of their comfort zones. Let them cry, let them feel pain, let them know the depths of messing up and being forgiven. Show them grace, give them order, hold them accountable.

Parenting is hard. Parenting sometimes sucks. But parenting is also very worth it.

 

 

 

Vacation

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We took a vacation, a road trip to see family in California and Arizona. It was LONG, it was fun, and the memories made were well worth it.

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Our Miss D’s (Nana) suitcase fell out of the cargo shell onto a very busy highway about here. Cabazon…115 degrees, SUPER windy, hence the windmills. Long story but her poor suitcase got shredded and it’s contents scattered all over the busy four lane highway. It wasn’t until some sensible drivers moved over that we were able to retrieve her belongings. Up until then I was at the mercy of the wind made by the speeding vehicles to blow her clothes my way.

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Family tradition, the Cabazon Dinosaurs. Since I was a little girl we have taken pictures here. Now all six of our kids have been here.

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Huntington Beach…never seen this young gent so happy!! Seriously. The beach was a hit for sure. If I could bottle it up for him I would.

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Tried new coffee. It gave Hubby and I a few minutes alone. Grateful for even mini-dates.

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Went to La Brea Tar Pits. I hadn’t been there since like fifth grade. Lots of fun. Very informative, which I eat up. The kids had fun spending some Christmas money at the gift shop too.

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IMG_2063Los Angeles, CA traffic!! No thank you.

 

IMG_2072Can’t tell you how much we all needed this little guy to nap and nap long.

IMG_2073Cousins and one uncle.

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Family in Arizona. Good times. So blessed to have a family who not only accepts our kids but sees passed their skin color and their past. Everyone of our family members has been so good to our kids. God is SO good.

The Road Ahead pt.2

Just last night, the sermon at church was about God’s purpose versus our preference. While the topic can refer to a number of examples in my life, this story came flashing in quicker than a preteen girl can change moods. (Part one of this journey can be read here.)

The decision on whether or not to go forward with adopting the four kiddos we met in the northern part of our state was really already decided for us. It was up to us to answer. We knew once we met them that they were “the ones”. We knew in a way that can’t really be explained. Hubby, our eldest son and I just knew. Hubby a bit less, but he still knew.

I NEVER imagined God wanting us to adopt four.at.one.time. NEVER. I even spoke to God in my heart, “but God, four?!” We were not set up for four, we had not planned on four. Our plans were a bit (very) different, but yet there was this underlying peace, that God was with us. God’s purpose versus our preference.

September 2015 we met our kids, we didn’t bring them home until February 2016. We missed all of the ‘big” holidays with them. When we met them in September, we decided to take the next step rather quickly. We met with our caseworker, his manager in the CYFD office and video conferenced with those involved in the kids’ case. There we were presented a Reader’s Digest version of the kids’ life, personalities,  behaviors, etc. We asked questions, lots of questions. Then it was go home, talk about it, think it over, pray. Then onto the next step. The is where the hold up was. This step required LOTS of paperwork. With four kids, there is a tree’s worth of paper involved just for this one meeting. The copy machine in our kids’ CYFD office was broken. Let me remind you that when you are dealing with foster care you are dealing with the government. We were hoping to bring the kids home by Thanksgiving. No fixed copier. I called everyone I could think of. Thought of EVERY possibility to get those papers copied. No fixed copier. Let me tell you that was one sad Christmas. We missed Thanksgiving, we missed one of the boy’s birthdays, and now we missed Christmas.

At this point in the game, the kids were still not told that we wanted them. To me, this was the hardest. We knew how we felt. We knew how hard we were trying to bring them home. They had no idea what had happened to the family they met way back in September. Did that family even want them?

I don’t remember when, but I ended up getting ahold of our governor’s liaison. He helped us before, and he came through big time for us again. Not only did the kids’ CYFD office get one brand new copier, they got two! From then on it was pretty smooth going.

So, with the biggest black binder, I have ever seen, Ms. L (the kids’ caseworker) came here to have the next meeting.  Again, more reading, more questions, more notes were taken. Go home read, think, talk, and pray. Onto the next step: calling the foster parents, teachers, etc. of our kids. I had my list of questions, my spot on our bedroom floor where each call was made. For one call, despite using a translator we really didn’t learn much about our little one. One foster mom was headed to the ER at the time I finally reached her!! Yes, the ER. She wasn’t sure if she was having a heart attack or what!?! Okay, so here’s the part where I am like let’s go get our son NOW! Can we break some rules? (If you know me, breaking rules is NOT my thing at all.) I had to leave it, leave him in God’s hands.

Needless to say, there was a LOT of waiting and a LOT of praying and too much fretting on my part. Once we did all we were supposed to do here on our end, it was time to give the final answer. Nothing we had read, nothing we were told changed our minds. We said yes.

The Road Ahead pt.1

As the clouds cover the mountains in our back, backyard an off and on mist like drizzle dampens the thirsty ground, I actually share a Facebook a two-year-old memory on my page:

“So, today is THE big day that we get our kids. I woke up feeling a little off (okay more than a little). I couldn’t put my finger on it until my dad texts me and asked if the labor pains have started. THAT’S it!! Mental labor pains, emotional labor pains. Yes, I am totally feeling the labor pains. I am not going to lie, taking on four kids is pretty huge. I try not to think of what God has asked us to do very often, as the responsibility can seem too much. I just take one day at a time with a big goal in mind. I am much more excited than scared, but so much has gone into this time, into getting kids, these kids, so many “what if’s” that we have heard for two plus years. Life is never going to be the same for us…but then again it wasn’t from the day we met them. Thank you all for your support and help and prayers through this all. You honestly don’t know how it strengthens me. Okay, I need to get off and finish getting ready we have a lot of road time ahead of us.”

When we went to a CYFD sponsored adoption event hours away, we had no idea the outcome. No idea if we find “the” kid or kids. No idea if our adoption journey would continue on the three-year long road for finding our child/children or if God’s GPS would lead us on a completely different path. All we knew was there were some kids a few social workers had for us to meet. We knew their names and ages, and some workers provided a bit more information. As the event went along we met most of the kids on our “list” and none seemed to click. I kept asking about the sib group of four we were told about. Half way through I had to use the porta- potty and literally ran into and a 10-year-old boy who would soon be our son. He was coming out of the porta-potty as I walked passed. I quickly scooped out the other kids that were nearby, four of them, who look to be about the ages we were told.  As I answered nature’s call I listened to see if any names were spoken by the group washing their hands at the portable washing station. None. As soon as I was done I headed over to the station myself. Again, trying to check out the kids without looking like a stalker, also trying to still my heart at the little one on the stroller reaching his hands out to me. With clean, dry hands I made my way to the only adult in the group. I introduced myself to her. Ms. L replied; “You are the one!” and we proceeded to make quick small talk and she introduced me to the shy, apprehensive sib group standing before me.

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(Us at the adoption event in our red bandanas.)

Now, there are no words to really explain how you feel when you meet kids who could one day be yours. You want to take them all into your arms at once and run away with them. At the same time, you want to walk into this as if you had to choose between door number one or door number two. Door number one being the “Let’s walk away now and wait for an easier road.” Or door number two: “What the heck are we doing? What the heck are we waiting for? What the heck are we doing?” no turning back door. I had so many questions. I wanted the event to stop so we could just talk to the kids, to their worker and really get to know them. And boy, oh boy, could I just squeeze the little chubster in the stroller.

I hurried to find Hubby and our eldest son so they could meet Ms. L and the kids too. I’d like to say we played it cool, and not seemed too eager, like many of the other parents looking for their child. But part of it is a bit blurred. I know we milled around with Ms. L and the sib group for a bit. At one point I mentioned that when Little Man in the stroller held out his arms to me, I wanted to grab him right up. To which Ms. L replied in her (sorry for any racial tones here) stereotypical welcoming African American woman voice, with her all-encompassing personality, “Go right ahead.” “Really?!?” I took that happy boy right into my arms and was he heavy!

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(Do you see the lady in the jean skirt and white tank top? That’s me next to our eldest son. The little feet right in front of me belong to our soon to be youngest son.)

Again, much of that day was a blur, so many thoughts, so many emotions are involved in one of these events. I do remember the turning point was at lunch. When Ms. L let us eat with the kids. I quickly looked up ahead at what was being served, told the kids and got their orders. It was hot, it was dry and like I said it was a bag of mixed emotions for the waiting parents and waiting kids. So small talk didn’t always come easy. While we sat at our table eating, some picking at hot dogs and burgers we tried to ask the most neutral questions as possible, trying to find out as much as possible in so short a time.

As the event came to a close, and “our” sib group made an early exit, we were left to decide, left to talk about the road ahead, left to comment to the unknown or not. I still remember sitting on the edge of my seat trying to remain ladylike in my jean skirt while removing the enormous amount of goat heads from my brown and teal mary jane crocs. Non-stop talking was going on, while we took off our red bandanas and contemplated out future. The road home was a long one, made even longer both the weight of the decision we faced and the wait of starting the journey ahead.

Ewww That Smell

I mentioned in my one of my last posts that I would talk about the ninos and their smell.

Well, here goes.

When our little guys and girl came to us almost two years ago they were coming from different foster homes. Chief and Nana were in the same home. The other boys were separated too. So four kids, three different homes. Yet they all had the same funky smell. They didn’t smell per se. It was their clothes. It took months to get that funk out. They all were in clean homes too and ours was a clean home.

I talked to another adoptive mom about it. How no matter what I used, how many scented beads I shook into the washer, their clothes still smelled. She said her boys did too. Stress related. She can actually tell when one of hers would be lying by his smell.

I did some researching, just a bit to see how studied this really is. Here is what I found:

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/signs/body-odor

http://www.springdaleclinic.com/how-does-anxiety-cause-body-odor/

http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Anxiety/Aniexty-and-body-odor/show/5052

There isn’t really much info on kids from foster care “smelling”, but there is evidence that anxiety and body odor can be related. There are also other types of B.O. that golly, I really didn’t know existed. B.O. I’d rather not mention here.

Recently I posed this question/topic on a foster/adopt Facebook page. The result was better than the internet search. Yes, it really is a “thing”. No matter what kid. No matter the background. No matter the age. They all came with some kind of smell. Some reported taking a year to get rid of the smell. Other than the stress factor others suggested they kids diets as well.

MT. Saint Laundry

Right now…

*the trashman’s (lady) truck is shaking as she empties our communal trash can. I can see her from where I sit,

*there is a right footed black converse size child’s 9, toddler glasses, almost empty water bottle, a box of tissue, an almost eaten chocolate chip paleo cookie, my phone and a note with a couple of contact numbers on my desk,

*a load of The Chief’s jeans tumbles and clang in our dryer,

*dishes are left from breakfast and lunch,

*Hubby is napping behind me on the couch,

*Larry Boy is laying in the hallway just waiting to be picked up,

*The kitchen table needs to be cleaned from lunch,

*The General in napping!!

*I know there is more, but you get the picture.

 

I don’t want to get to any of those at this moment. I want to write about laundry.

Yes, laundry.

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(This is just part of the amount of laundry that is done on a weekly basis.)

With seven of us, laundry is a BIG part of our lives. If not kept up on it can overtake us as we run around either in dirty, smelly clothes or in our birthday suits. Neither is preferred or acceptable, so here’s how we tackle the loads and mounds of laundry.

We have set days for individuals in our house. For YEARS I have washed Hubby and my clothes on Mondays and Thursdays. Mondays being the heaviest day. So Mondays and Thursdays it’s Papa & Mama bears turn. I also wash the little guys’ clothes on Mondays. Right now The General’s clothes have been with ours since he got his cast on. The Lawyer (aka Mr. Bubblewrap) is learning how to do his own as well. While he and the General share a room, they no longer shares a hamper. The Lawyer has a problem soiling his undies and thus his needs to be washed separately. The only older child who picked a washing day when we had the laundry talk was The Chief. He is on Tuesdays. Our eldest son and Miss Nana are on their own. They usually wait and wait then try to butt in on someone else’s day. Much more her than him. Oh, there’s also the hamper drawer in the kids’ bathroom. I just recently gave that one up. No one said anything. I had been reluctantly doing the clothes in there since we moved. It was mainly the older two boys. Don’t know how it happened but I don’t wash them anymore.

Exceptions are of course soiled bedding and hunting clothes from a successful hunt. Which take priority.

Everyone, okay, most of the household put away their own clothes. I put away Hubby’s and the General’s (he’s a toddler) and of course mine. I used to put away all of our ninos clothes, but quickly phased that out and taught them how to do it. Our 9yo still struggles with it, but it is more of a lazy thing than him being incapable.

When the kids first came to us they changed everything (except their undies and socks) all.of.the.time. I would be overwhelmed by the sheer volume. We had to tell them they could wear their jeans and the like more than one day. I know everyone is different about how many times to wear an article of clothing before washing it, but this mama out of plain ‘ole lack of time had to change something. Change is hard. It took me making the older two ninos wash, dry and put away their own laundry for them to see just how much clothes they were wearing. How much work they were making. While they change clothes more than I’d like (again, socks and undies not included) (OH and those security blankets they called hoodies, zip up sweatshirts!! I had to stand my ground this morning for one to get washed today! Yuck!!)

Towels…so many towels. Again, everyone has their own opinion as to how often to wash towels. Again, we are not of the everyday group. Sorry to my son-in-law and to all like him. Miss Nana has to put her own towels (pink) in her laundry. She will use, I swear, two towels per shower if we don’t stay on top of her. Hubby, the general (who gets washed in our bathroom) and I put ours in our hampers. The others have a basket in the hamper drawer in their bathroom. It works out so much better washing the towels separately.

Unlike some BIG family blogs read, I don’t make my own detergent. I use Tide and the scented beads (our ninos and smells in another post) and occasionally fabric softner. Everyone has their own space in their perspective closets. No need for communal closets here. And because (how’s that for bad grammar?!) we all vary in age and size there are no sharing clothes.

Even with our semi-organization there always seems to be laundry for me that needs to be done. Usually, it’s the putting away that gets me. I get too busy with other things.

How do you manage the laundry? I’d love to hear.

Whack-A-Mole

Yikes…! Where does the time go?

I have had so many good blog posts formulating in my head. So many.

Posts about our holiday break, raising a big family, helping kids overcome and thrive, setbacks…you get the picture.

BUT, I am a mom. A mom of 6 children from toddlerhood to adulthood and all in between.

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To be honest, this year started like last year ended…full of emotions. We have had every type going on here. And me, I am trying to keep myself in control and reset my mind. Some days we are just surviving, barely hanging on. Playing Whack-a-mole as the kids take turns having issues. You never know who or what is going to happen.

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There are the boys. These boys…LOVE them to pieces, but they can really twist and turn the tides of the household dynamics. Let’s see we have one who was doing SOOO good only to go back to what we call foster mode (total emotional chaos, absent-mindedness, etc.), one doing super good, maturing and functioning on all cylinders (which doesn’t always happen). So good I called my mom. This one even gave me a hug! Another got tripped and broke his leg. (another post for later). We have lost wallets, tensions on high, sometimes overly aggressive boy behavior and Hubby and I trying to navigate our way through it all without losing it ourselves (which as humans we have). Can I repeat when one (just a certain one) of ours goes into the foster mode it really throws us all.

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Then there are our girls. One is preteen and still trying to find her way and place in our family. She finds it and then I think becomes uncomfortable. Our oldest, well, is great but for me learning how to have our, sort of still new, the adult relationship can leave me wondering if I am doing too much or too little. Overall the girls have been more help than not.

So this year is slowing coming together and slowing down I am trying to readjust some of my thinking patterns. Trying not to be so reactive. Trying not to change (fix) those in my immediate life. I am giving them to God and trying to let Him do the work I can’t. Letting God make up for all of these times I fall so very short. And learning grace again.

Okay, off to do laundry, dishes, my hair, laundry, make an appointment, oh did I mention laundry?