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.

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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.

That’s IT!?!

Okay, soapbox warning here.

I just ran into a former co-worker. I re-entered the workforce for a short time a few years ago before exiting to adopt. This co-worker and I worked together for an even shorter amount of time. That being said, I ran into her while at two of our kids’ parent-teacher conference. She quickly asked what I was “up to these days.” I replied, “Being a mom.” (She knew we were going to adopt, knew we got matched, she knew were took on FOUR kids ALL.AT.ONE.TIME, etc., etc.) To which she replied, rather condescendingly, “That’s it!?!” (In front of my kids mind you.) “She didn’t just say that” ran through my head faster than Flash himself. I wanted to scream and laugh at her, to stand and defend my stance as a mom. But I knew my efforts would fall on deaf ears. “That’s it?” I simply questioned. There was a third lady in the room and she sort of came to my defense. A very short discussion between the two women, more like throwing opinions out, took place. One of which I was having none of. Again, those deaf ears.

Yet, as three of our six kids and I were leaving, I felt the need to defend my choice to stay-at-home to my kids, especially my daughter.

So, to all of you blessed SAHMs, to all of the girls and boys who are blessed to have a SAHM, and to all of the naysayers this is for you:

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Dear Fellow Stay-at-Home Mamas,

First, I commend all that you do to be home with your babies no matter how old they are. There is no higher calling than to be a wife and a mom. Today I took one for the team. “That’s it!?!” should not be the response we get for making the choice to be the one to raise our kiddos (and sometimes someone else’s kids). It should not be the response we get for running our kids all over the place, to sports, doctors, school, extracurricular activities, clothes shopping, doctors, dentists, shoe shopping, did I mention the doctors (if you have any child with any extra needs you know I could’ve added doctors in a few more times), and or any other place they need to be at any given time. Being the one who comforts our babies, soothes their little hearts, rocks them to sleep at nap time, introduces them to the wonder of books, changes almost all of the diapers, wakes with them in the middle of the night, teaches them the importance of sharing, of getting along should not be diminished by anyone. All of the times you sat in IEP meetings, attending award ceremonies, helped out in their classes, sold fundraiser goodies door-to-door, made sure their clothes and uniforms were clean and ready should make you stand tall. When you were there for their first steps, their first words, their first smile, their first fall, their first heartbreak, their first straight A, or F report card is irreplaceable. Being able to create a safe, unstressed, stable, loving atmosphere for your husband and kids on a daily basis reaps the reward that will only be seen far down the road. Providing structure, creativity, calmness, responsibility serves such a greater picture than ourselves.

When you are standing in old shoes, in a mom bun, looking at yet another load of soiled laundry, wiping another nose and or bum, when you are cleaning up spills off a freshly washed floor, feeling like your days are filled with useless, mundane tasks that no one sees or even cares about take heart. Know it does matter. When you are lonely and in desperate need of adult conversation. Know you matter. When you are fighting that kid for the hundredth time today, know that no one can replace you. While standing over that hot stove making your family a homemade meal, know you and your family are blessed. When the sacrifices you make start to wear you down, know that no one can care for your child the way you can. Even though they often don’t show it your kids need and crave what you provide. Your husband, your marriage needs what you do, who you are. Even on our worst days, our children would rather be with us than a stranger at daycare.

The outside may see us as lazy, as underachievers, sitting on our bums all day eating bonbons. We may have no certificate to hang on our walls, no capital letters behind our names, no paycheck to cash and spend. They may see us and what we do and think and sometimes say, “That’s it!?!” But my dear mama, God is watching. God sees all that you do and give your babies no matter how old. He sees all of the things to lay down so you can give your kids and your husband the best of you. I believe that God has a special place in His heart for mamas. Dear mama, trust and know that you are held in His hands.

Nevermind the naysayers. Nevermind those that belittle what you do. You aren’t doing it for them anyway. Your babies are watching and learning. They will know you cared and know they are important. Your marriage will be stronger and your husband will be blessed.

So look yourself in the mirror, adjust your mom bun and go hug those children of yours. Go enjoy that cookie you made with your toddler. And make sure your kids know how happy it makes you to be their mom. That you don’t need others or an outside job to make you content. And let your husband know how grateful you are for his hard work so you can stay home.

**I realize this is one sided. I know that there are mamas out there who want more than anything to be a SAHM. Rest assured this was not aimed at you.**

FUN Writing Exercise

I want to be a writer, pen my own book/s one day. Yet I don’t have much time to sit down and actually take classes and/or practice. This blog is truly my biggest outlet for my writing practice. But every now and then I steal away a corner of time to hone my craft just a bit more.

Writing Challenges podcasts afford me a (free) class that is ready and available when I am. Earlier this week I was able to sit down and give it a go. This is my second such writing challenge from this podcast. This one proved to be rather fun and invigorating. Here’s how it went.

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Imagine if you will the instructions are spoken in an older British male voice. Here’s your assignment:

*Pick a book of your self, poetry or fiction.

*Close your eyes, open the book and point your finger somewhere on the page.

*Take that word, the three words after and the three words before it.

*Write that phrase down.

*Now you have 5 minutes to write. Don’t think (which is harder than you’d think), try to write as fast as you can. You are not producing a work of art.

This was one of the most fun writing exercises I have done. What I wrote completely ended up different than what I started off with. So I am going to put myself out there, be vulnerable before you, my readers.

My word was OBJECT. The phrase: “…down, examined the object and slipped it…” Here it is, as is, no corrections made or revisions done.

Down, examined it and slipped it back into his pocket and walked away. Away from the dark, away from the mess. Away from the noise that seemed to grip him and not let him go. He walked out into the sunlight. Out into the fresh air. He felt alive. He felt free. With a sense of purpose, a newfound freedom, he looked at the forest before him and he just walked. He walked until he couldn’t walk anymore. Then he sat down and took a deep breath. The years had been hard on him. His hair was no longer deep rich brown. It has started to turn gray. His eyes were no longer sharp and bright. And his heart once broken actually felt like it was coming back to life. He took another deep long breath. He filled his lungs with the dewy freshness of the earth. It had just rained the previous night. He felt the moisture of the ground with his fingertips. Some clinging to… (5 minutes is up)

British instructor resumes his instructions; “After 5 minutes you should have covered quite a lot of pages.” Well, not this mama writer. I didn’t cover much ground at all. No worries though. “Now read what you have written, but read it forwards then read through it word for word backward.” No here’s where I had a harder time, “Underline one phrase that strikes you as possessing any one of the following qualities: it has energy, it surprises you, it has never been written before in your language. The phrase must make a kind of sense. It must possess it’s own inner sense, at the very least. That is it must not be completely opaque in meaning. It might be a whole sentence or at the end of a sentence and the beginning of the next.” I had a hard time finding that sentence or phrase. I need it to finish the assignment. As I need to write either a short story or poem in which it occurs without seeming out of place.

So, can you help me and tell me what sentence or phrase fits the bill? Thanks so much. And thank you for letting me put myself out here all of the time without judging me.

The Clubhouse

IMG_2480Building a blanket fort should be a right of passage for every child sometime in their life. Our kids LOVE building blanket forts or clubhouses as The General calls them.

IMG_2482Sometimes they are very elaborate with a room for everyone. Sometimes it’s a very open space, plenty of room to chat the night away.

IMG_2483Sometimes the “party light” is added for a festive atmosphere.

IMG_2481No matter what, they LOVE the togetherness this brings and reminds them of the good days with their birth family.

Why I Won’t Homeschool

I get asked every school year by at least two people if I am going to homeschool. I have an 8th, 6th, 3rd graders and a kindergartner. I have two adult children, one who is in college. My answer is always no.

See, I have home schooled. For six straight years and a short stint last year. I have homeschooled full-time and part time three of our six children. I don’t see homeschooling in my future. Just to be clear though, I am NOT against homeschooling at all. I know it is a great and wonderful experience and there are SO many reasons to homeschool.

But here’s my reasons for not:

*I know my limitations, academically, emotionally, mentally, and time wise.

**While I did well in school myself, that was ages ago and many of the things life have filed those academic resources and pushed them far into the recesses of my brain. My ability to figure out language, math, and the like are not as good as they used to be. If my child cannot figure certain things out on their own or we can’t find the help we need (our resources are limited here) then it just won’t get taught leading to educational gaps. While I am sure they learn things they wouldn’t have in public school, having that on my conscience is not good.

**Emotionally and mentally, homeschooling is super fun and rewarding. You really grow closer to your kids and get to experience some things you may not otherwise experience. There’s also that sense of gratification and success when your child finally grabs a hold of a concept they struggled with and you see the lights come on. However, I remember the days when my brain was fried and all of the other things I needed to get done became such a drag for me. I know we all have those days, but there really has to be a balance.

**Time. Can we just stop right there? It really takes a chunk of time out of your day/life to homeschool and to do it right. That amount of time is not a luxury for us at this point in our lives.

Part of me wants to homeschool again…very rarely but I still have that small spark in there that gets excited when seeing curriculum or the shelves of school supplies. My oldest two and I had a wonderful time homeschooling. We have a lot of happy memories. I can point to certain times that our lives were really enriched by the whole experience. But here’s the catch, besides all that I said above, with our older two we had a strong foundation in our relationship from their birth. Not so with our younger four. When I homeschooled one of our sons part-time, I saw that this foundation that we are slowly building upon and forming, weaken under the role of teacher and student that caused me to close my homeschool doors. My intentions were good. I wanted to help our son grow academically and give him that one-on-one attention he needed. In the end our relationship and continuing to grow it came first.

To sum it all up. I loved much of homeschooling. I also love the fact that someone else can teach our kids. I love spending time with our kids. I also love the break. For us, homeschooling is not the best. As a mom, I have learned (okay, am still learning) to set many expectations, sometimes my heart, aside, and look reality in the eye and do what we can do. If you homeschool, good for you. If you private school, good for you. If you public school, good for you. You be the best mom you are able to be for your precious kids.

Vindication

Now that may sound like a strong word, but golly, it sure explains how I feel at the moment. (And a heads up, this is an honest post more about the harder side of adoption. So, if you prefer the always positive adoption blogs, then skip this post.)

Let me explain. I got a phone call from one of our children’s teachers. “While ____ is a really well behaved student…” She went onto use words like lying, sneaky, trust, etc. Now they may sound harsh and make my readers wonder why I am vindicated about them. You see, she sees part of what we deal with pretty much on a daily basis.

Most kids who live/have lived with trauma learn to lie, cheat, and manipulate to survive. They learn to be award winning actors to make people like them and again to survive. This is just how it is, not their fault. But bring that home, to a home that is really trying to make a difference, to a forever home. Let it continue year after year. Have people judge your parenting “style” and feeling sorry for the said child gets rough. It gets tiring. Makes one want to give up standing for certain things they believe in and to not keep doing what they are doing. Makes one start to question themselves.

As a mom, I want to believe the best about my kids, each of them. I want to see the best in them. Yet, I personally almost get to the point where I feel like maybe we aren’t seeing what others are seeing. “Am I missing something?” “Am I being too hard?” These thoughts can really wreck havoc on my mind, when I let them. Then I get a phone call like the one tonight (Friday night) and my mind and heart begin to clear.

What goes on behind closed doors, is, well, behind closed doors. Most parents are truly good people who love their kids, each of them. They are honestly doing their best. Take that to the next level with foster/adoptive kids and things aren’t always as they seem. I’ve had one child lie at school saying that I don’t feed him/her; can they please have food…” Thankfully the teacher knew me, doubted this statement, and called to clarify . (This is just one of the multiple lies that have been told, acts that have been played, etc. to get one’s way.) So, please don’t judge (unless it’s definite child abuse). Unless you know what those parents go through every day, week after week, month after month…until you know what the kid/s are putting the parents through…until you know just how lonely these parents can feel many times. Please support them and trust that what they are doing is right for the child, right for the family. Please abide by their wishes, even if they don’t seem to make sense. We don’t want to tell everyone all that is going on with our child/children.

Tonight I am adding Mrs. F to my grateful list.