Hooligan Zoo

Two Zookeepers… many Hooligans… It's always feeding time at this zoo!

“Those People”

I was once speaking at a PRIDE foster parent training course, and I usually like to hit a few main points that I wish had been hit for us, or things that I’ve just come to realize over the years that we were fostering.

I was commenting on how important it is to create a kind and caring relationship with the biological parents of the kids in our care.  How it was considerate, how it made things easier for all of us, and how it’s important to remember that these are not OUR children.

A woman at the meeting commented that she didn’t understand why we would go to such effort, that the bio parents should simply be grateful to us for caring for their children.

When I explained that these parents love their children, she was disbelieving and dismissive.

I was floored.

At the audacity.

Of this woman, making blanket statements from her position of privilege on people who had not been given the same advantages as she had been.

“Those people” love their children?  Then why are they taken away?  Why don’t they do what’s best?

And here’s the thing, friends.  Hear me when I say this.  Those people, those daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, those people, those mothers and fathers, they love their children as much as you love yours.

Zayda’s first visit with her mom after she came into care was eye opening.  Her mom’s first comment was, “Oh, she’s so clean!  She’s in foster care, and she’s so clean!”

My heart was absolutely shattered.  This young woman, this woman who herself had grown up in foster care was shocked that a foster parent would provide a home where her child would be clean.  What must she herself have experienced to be surprised at that?

Another foster parent friend of mine had an experience with the parent of one of her babes that was fairly similar.  My friend was in her van traveling with the parents of the babe.  The mom commented that CAS had apprehended her child because of neglect.

My friend asked her why she thought that was, what she thought that CAS was calling neglect.

The mom responded that her baby was NOT neglected.  That she herself KNEW what neglect was, that she herself had LIVED neglect, and that she was providing so much more than she had for herself when she grew up.

So, my thought is this.  As parents, as people who have grown up even in typical “good enough” homes, we are always striving to do more and to do better than our own parents did with us.  What if these parents, these parents who lose their children, what if they are also doing their very best to do better than what they were given?  They are leveling up from what they know, from how they were raised, but that level was so low, leveling up is simply not good enough.

How can anyone say that those people do not love their children?

That those people don’t deserve help?

That those people should just know better?

Do they not deserve the same advantages, the same opportunities to learn, to fail, to try again, that we all have had?

When I talk about fostering, people are always surprised at how vehemently I defend the parents of the children that we’ve had.  Of all of the children we have welcomed into our home, only one child did not have parents who also grew up in foster homes.

How can we expect adults who have not known healthy attachment to be able to attach in healthy ways to their children?

We all know that the system is broken, and that (most of) the people working within the system are doing their absolute level best for the children.  If foster care worked, we would not have generations of people growing up in the system.

We had one father who once told me his entire heartbreaking life story.  Afterwards, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “no one has ever listened to that and not blamed me.”

Parents deserve our compassion.  And by giving them our compassion and grace, we allow them to see a little bit of what being good enough can be.  And that may be something that they have never before experienced in their lives.  How is that not good for their children?

 

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to build him up.  For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”                                   Romans 15:1-3

 

**disclaimer:  there are absolutely cases where people have children and mentally and physically abuse them who do not deserve a second chance.  That is an entirely different story.  In our case, and I think in the majority of cases when young children are apprehended, it is because of neglect, where the parents do not know how or what to provide for their children.**

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The Other Side

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That little guy up there, he was only supposed to be with us for 6 weeks, but was instead with us for 7 months.  He was 4 months old when he came to us, and is almost one now.

He left us on Monday, picked up amongst many tears from us, and from the workers, and was placed in what everyone is hoping will be his forever home.

The transition took place over about 6 weeks.  He gradually spends more and more time with his family, spends overnights, and then he’s just gone from us.

Those 6 weeks are some of the hardest that we ever do as a foster family.  You have this deadline of them leaving you hanging over your head.  You have no control over where they go.  If you’re especially lucky, you have amazing workers (we did) who continuously seek your input as you have contact with where the child is going.

So, just about every day over those six transition weeks, we are packing up the babe who has become a HUGE part of our family, all for the purpose of allowing him to transfer that trust to someone else.  We know from the moment that a child comes into our house, that they will be leaving.  That doesn’t make it easier when they leave.

Ephraim has the most outwardly hard time with transition.  He acts up a little, is more weepy…  Talya will have her brief moments, and then go off and flit around the way she does.  Zi is the most verbal.  She outright says, “this sucks.”  Cries a little, spends a LOT of time with the little one in question.

Our job as foster parents is to love these kids as if they are our own, knowing all the time that they will be leaving us.  People talk a lot about how awesome it is for the kids in our care that we do this, but I think that we are equally benefited.

It’s incredible to us that we are given the privilege of seeing their milestones, soothing their hurts, in some cases, helping them catch up a little.  We truly believe that it’s a privilege.  When the child’s family can’t give them what they need, we’re able to for the short time that they’re with us.

The benefits to us as a family, and to our kids?  Oh man.  I have seen our kids grow and become such giving little creatures.  They instantly accept every single child that comes into our house.  Without question.  That child becomes a part of our family right away.

Our kids do diapers, they rock to sleep, they do bottles.  They don’t complain.  They love it.  And they miss them when they aren’t here.

8 foster kids have come through our house in less than 2 years.  And it still isn’t any easier when they leave.

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Believe it or not, we are not heartless.

“I would love to foster, but I don’t think I could ever let the kids go.”
“I don’t know how you let them go.”
“I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t send them on.”

We hear stuff like this ALL the time. A friend said to me yesterday that someone said to her that she didn’t know how we can let the kids go, and my friend was mad. Mad that it implies that we are heartless people, mad that it implies that we don’t care, that it implies that we can just have kids come in and go, with no feelings whatsoever.

It so isn’t true. We grieve. Our hearts break. There are tears for a long time after someone leaves us. It is so hard, so very very hard.

But, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t necessary. Fostering is hard, yes, so many parts of it are hard, but that doesn’t make it not worthwhile. Doesn’t make us cold and heartless for being able to let them go.  God doesn’t only ask us to do the easy things.

Yesterday we said goodbye to a wee little thing that had been with us for 7 months. We’d been through a lot with this little girl. Two, almost three, hospital visits for respiratory issues. Lots and lots of access. Typical baby stuff.

We watched her grow from this wee little thing who just laid on the floor, to the terror that she is today. Crawling like a maniac, getting into things, bullying the other little girl we have now. We got to see her personality develop like crazy.

Sleepless nights, feedings, diapers, we did all of that. We loved her like she was our own, while always remembering that we would one day have to let her go.

And let her go we did. It took five weeks to transition her back to her parents. Parents who Ja and I both like very much, parents who themselves had a crappy start in life, spending most of it in foster care themselves. Parents who are trying very hard to be the parents that the toad needs them to be.

My anxiety level grew as we got closer to the “official” date to have her go home.

Zi, at one point during the transition, commented that she wished Toad was just gone. Because then the pain could stop.

Eph said yesterday that it’s so hard, but it’s totally worth it.

A friend sent me this fantastic article, and this part really touched me,

I texted my friend, Nancy: “Why are we doing this again? It hurts so bad.”

Nancy: “Because if we aren’t there to be Jesus with skin on, his mom may have never felt Jesus’ hands and feet restoring her family and those kids may have never felt safe and clean and loved and valued. It does hurt. Praise God that your heart is still tender for these kids and not calloused!”

The most common misconception about foster parents is that they have hearts made of steel. I can assure you that this heart is not made of steel. It’s tender and bruised. But I have a God bigger than the hurt. A God who comforts me, heals me, and prepares me to love another child in need. A God who uses my hands and feet to point to Jesus.

God gave us an incredible support group.  We had so many people checking in on us yesterday, and a wonderful friend not only brought dinner (and icecream!), but also sent me this email today;

God understands more than anyone the sacrifice you have made and how your heart aches giving up these precious munchkins. Can you imagine what it must have been like for Him to turn Jesus over to the likes of us! One day He will heal your heart, hold you in His arms and thank you for caring for His babies.

And you know what?  They’re all His babies.  Yours, mine, the ones that just pass through here for a short time, they’re all His.

Yes, it IS hard to let them go.  It’s one of the hardest things that we’ve ever had to do as a family.  It hurts us more than I can say.  The tears that we shed are many.  It creates an ache in my heart that doesn’t ever go away.  But?  My God is big.  He is bigger than all of it.  And He keeps us going until the next child comes, and we are able to soothe the hurt with the ability to help and love someone else who needs it.

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6 Months, 6 Kids

I started this post many months ago, and am only just now feeling prepped to finish it…

This foster parent thing is quite the ride, I tell ya. Full of ups and downs, falling in love, letting go… exhaustion, worry… really all of the things that you experience being a regular parent as well.

I think the difference with the foster thang, as we like to call it, is that you’re loving these kids IN ORDER to let them go. We’re the stopping place. We’re the place where we try to fill them up with as much good stuff, love, stability, food, as we can, before they go on somewhere else. Whether that’s home, to an adoptive family, or what have you.

When we signed those papers back in May, we were sure that it was going to be eons of time until we got the call for our first little charge. It was, in fact, 5 days before we had our first placement. Four weeks later we had our second little charge, a week after that, our first charge went home, and then a week after that, we had a second little boy placed with us. That gave us a 17 month old boy, and a 15 month old boy at the same time.

The boys, Thing 1 and Thing 2 were with us for 5 months.

Thing 2 got to go and live with an aunt, and Thing 1 was adopted into an absolutely amazing family.

He was third generation to grow up in the system, his grandmother and his mother both grew up in foster care. Since he was placed with us, our entire church family was praying for him. For his new family. For God to touch his heart, and remain with him wherever he went.

When we got the call for the meeting to go and meet the potential adoptive parents, Ja commented that maybe it was the couple that we had taken the PRIDE course with. I laughed, because, obviously he was a foolish, foolish man, and there was no way that was possible.

Turns out, it was them! This wonderful Christian couple that we had really liked when we took the course. The woman and I hugged, with the adoption worker looking confused, caught up a little bit, and headed into the meeting.

I can’t tell their part of the story, but I do know this. She had been praying for faith. After so many years, years of infertility, years of trying to adopt, to finally get the call, she had been praying for faith that if this was God’s plan, it would happen. That she would have a sign. That it would be so obvious to her.

Later she said to me that it being us was the first sign. Then, the word faith kept coming up in the meeting, and her heart was singing, and she just knew that Thing1 was supposed to be hers.

We transitioned him to their home in a way that God could have only had his hand directly on. It was so smooth. The entire time, this couple were so kind and considerate as to OUR feelings, our hooligans feelings. They wanted to do everything possible to make it an easy transition for him to be in his forever home.

And, it really was. It felt so natural to be with them. The transfer of our little guys affections was seamless, and felt really right. I stopped being his momma, and truly, truly became Auntie Jamie.

Before the transition, when I got Thing 1 in trouble, he would run to her. Afterwards, when we were visiting about a month after the placement, she gave him trouble, and he ran to me!

We still see them and chat with them fairly frequently. In this case, I don’t feel like we lost a child at all, but more like we gained a family. They are very dear to us, and I still get goosebumps about the way the whole thing happened.

I know that God is always in control, that he can allow things to happen, but, I still get goosebumps when I tell this story and realize how very true that is. How none of this could have happened.

One of my Sunday School teachers said that she could one day see Thing 1 standing up in front of a group of people, telling his testimony, telling where he came from, how his cycle was broken. Gesturing at parents who have loved him unconditionally from the moment they first heard his name.

His new mom and I both hold that picture in our hearts. I can’t wait to see it actually happen.

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And then we let him go.

I guess it’s been about a month now since our first little foster hooligan went home.  I think I might be ready to talk about it.

The entire experience was so positive, so wonderful, so great, that we have since then been suckered into taking in two toddlers…  One 14 months, one 17 months.  Whew.  That’s a story for another post that I’ll probably write in a month or two given my current writing track record.

But oh, little C.  You fiery adorable little thing.  

When Ja walked in the door every night, there was a squeal of “JAY!” and instantly needing a snuggle.  His bedtime routine included a good snuggle, and when asked after the story what it was time for, he would enthusiastically yell, “BOBBLE!”  The only one he got for the day.

The obsession with Thomas trains.  The refusal to drink water unless it was slightly coloured….  

I knew that he was going home on the Friday that he did.  It was something I could just feel.  I was actually rooting for his dad in court that day, basing my thoughts on my gut feeling, conversations with him, his interactions with his son.  Even the worker was hopeful that he would go back to his dad.

We kept busy the day of the court proceedings.  Visiting friends, waiting for that phone call.  The call came around lunchtime that we were to bring him back to the Access Centre at 4.  Dad would be there, and to make sure that we packed all of C’s things.

Even that part was hard, packing everything up.  His little clothes that we had bought for him, toys, books, we packed everything into a big duffle bag.  A very very full duffle bag.  His life book, extra pictures of his time with us.  All of those little things that we found all over the house that were a piece of him embedded in our family.  It all had to go with him.

The kids spent a concerted amount of time playing with him that last day.  Doing whatever he wanted.  Making him laugh that big deep down belly toddler laugh over and over and over. 

When it was time to go, we spent ten minutes, made a circle around him, and all of us prayed over him.

Talya prayed that he would miss her.

Eph prayed that he would always remember him, and that he would be safe and happy.

Zi prayed that he would always love books, and that he would be safe and happy.

I prayed that we would have had an impact, that the Lord would grow that little seed in his heart.  That he would remember that we prayed every night with him, that we gave thanks for him.

We all cried.  

We packed everyone up and off we went to the centre.  I was so determined not to cry.  It was such a mixed round of feelings too, I was very very happy for his dad.  I knew that he belonged with his dad.  I knew that he needed to be with his dad, and I had that gut feeling that this was a good thing.

At the same time, I was so sad that he was leaving us.  The toddler spa wouldn’t happen with him demanding the nighttime cream on every leg, on his back, on his tummy.  He wouldn’t name all of the Thomas trains for us anymore.  He just wouldn’t BE here on a daily basis.  I was sad for us, but happy for him and his dad.

I made it all the way to the centre without crying.  Our little guy’s worker met us in the parking lot, and I just lost it.  She was so kind and gentle… gave me a hug.  Dad pulled up not long after, saw me all teary, and said, “Oh, you’re not supposed to be CRYING!”  Gave me a big hug too, and started crying himself!  

By the end, after the little guy was all buckled into his dad’s van, his dad’s carseat, we’re all crying, he’s bewildered at the tears, phone numbers have been exchanged, Dad was so incredibly grateful that we took good care of his son, I thanked him for being so wonderful to us, told him that he had ruined us for ALL other interactions with future bio parents… 

… and then he was just gone.

The worker stayed with me for a few minutes, hugged me again, and then she said something that I will never forget.  I had commented that I hoped it gets easier, sending the kids on.  

She responded with, “You know, Jamie, I really hope that it never gets easier for you.  I hope that you always care this much.  It means that you are really doing your job when you welcome these kids into your home, and love them enough that it hurts to let them go.  I hope it is always this hard to let them go.”

And that was it.  We went home.  Had some family time.  

And woke up the next day to a quieter house.

((until we got the call three days later to take in a second baby….))

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Personality Explosion!

It’s funny, we’ve had this little guy for almost a month now…  we thought in the beginning that he was settling in really fine.  He was pretty smiley and content with us from the very beginning.  Not too shy…  he seemed to be eating okay, although he does turn his nose up at water.  (Hint: two little drops of juice, just enough to colour the water, and he’s good to go!)

 
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A friend of ours said that she always thought it was interesting how foster kids that her sister had would really blossom over the time that they were there.  That they would just really come alive and explode with personality.  At first I thought that wasn’t going to happen here, because we had already started out on a good footing…

But, the past week and a half or so, my goodness.  We’ve had a few tantrums (I took markers away that were being used to colour on the wall… I know, mean, right?), which is really a good thing.  It means he feels safe.  It means he feels comfortable.  And that is exactly what we want for him while he’s here.

On top of the tantrums, oh my goodness can this boy eat.  And eat.  And eat.  His personality has exploded in ways I couldn’t even imagine.  He laughs, initiates games with us, loves to snuggle.  Reads books, comes to us when he wants something, and seriously, the belly laugh bears mentioning AGAIN.  It’s really incredible.

Our kids are enamoured.  We will all be very sad when he leaves us.  It’s all a learning process, this first little hooligan, for all of us.  Zi has learned to change diapers (she wanted to), Eph is LOVING having another boy around.  I’ll need a whole other blog post to tell about the amount of wrestling the two boys do.  Talya is absolutely thrilled to be a “big sister.”  She did tell Ja recently that it was hard though.  😉

She’s the one who seems to be the most affected.  Talya is more clingy, more seeking out our attention.  She’s had a few jealous scuffles over toys, but that’s all to be expected.  We’re making extra effort to read to her, and listen to her, draw with her, those kinds of things.

All in all, still an excellent experience.  Even our interactions with the little guy’s parents have been really good.

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Angry.

Ja and I, we have been gifted these amazing little people to raise to love the Lord.  To raise to become productive adults.  They are in our house for such a short time, really, even though oftentimes it seems like eternity.

I’ve talked about this before quite a bit, about our struggles with food.  With fitting in when we have to limit our food choices.  With so many different things.

In a nutshell, our lovely, handsome, intelligent, intense son cannot have food additives.  HFCS, MSG, food dyes, all these things cause him to react in terrible and often violent ways.  The big problem is that it’s not an allergy, per se…  and, our society?  Sees sensitivities, especially in one so young, more as an excuse on the parents’ part to explain away bad behaviour.

I’ve actually been accused of that by close friends before.  In fact, I was accused of that indirectly very recently.

Here’s my confession.  I got lazy.  I got tired of reading every.  single.  label.  Every.  Single.  Time.  It’s never easy for us.  Our lives revolve around what we’re going to eat, when we’re going to eat it, how much gets eaten.   If I’m tired of cooking?  We can’t just stop at Wendy’s, or heck, even Subway for a break.  I can’t call Ja and say, “Hey, Honey, had a rough day, can you bring home dinner?”

So, over Christmas I just kind of stopped.  We were taken out to dinner several times.  We did not take our own food with us when we went to family gatherings.  I did not police his intake when we were at gatherings.  We let him have things that we normally would direct him away from.

And oh did my precious boy pay for our lack of diligence.

I’ve known for weeks that he’s been off.  You can actually read it on his face and see it in his behaviour in little ways.  He withdraws.  He doesn’t want to play outside.  He doesn’t handle conflict well.  He doesn’t eat well when we are eating.  He hardly smiles.  He’s… well, he’s not him.

We had a birthday party, we had red cupcakes the same weekend, and then on Monday we had a blowup.  A violent blowup that I’m still sporting the bruises from.

Frankly?  I should not have to use my Non-violent Crisis Intervention techniques on my son.

A full half hour I held him down while he tried his best to injure me, injure himself, or to destroy something.  When I finally got him calm enough, got some juice into him, and held him while he sobbed in my arms, I was beaten and exhausted.  My heart breaks for him.  I don’t want his life to be this hard.

I want to stomp my feet and scream that it’s not fair.

Because you know what?  It isn’t fair.  It isn’t fair that he can’t simply go to a birthday party and have cake and icecream like the other kids without his parents planning ahead for the repercussions that that entails.

It’s not fair that he has to take a break every two hours to eat something so that he can cope with day to day regular interactions.

It’s just, it’s not fair.

I’m angry that in our society today, we can’t trust any food that you buy in a store.  I’m angry that money is so important to big companies that they manufacture fake food that is addictive.   I’m angry that it’s an issue with other people that our son can’t handle food additives.  I’m angry that because it isn’t an allergy, it isn’t treated with respect.  I’m angry that because his reaction is usually delayed, people think that we’re crazy, they think that he’s just a bad kid.

I’m angry that this situation is unfair, preventable, and that we’re judged because we’re choosing different food choices for our son so that he can be the best child he can be.

On Monday when we had friends here, one friend consoled me after the meltdown, and strongly suggested we get some behavioural counseling.

I’m feeling a little bitter about that remark.  It completely negated the fact that he hasn’t had a violent meltdown in two years since we started this food journey.  It completely negated the fact that we have worked our butts off to change our parenting styles, to change the way we do everything, all so that our precious boy can have the best chance at life possible.  Her comment was a slap in the face at all that we had done, and all that we are doing.  It screamed at me, “You are a BAD mother, you have a BAD son.”  And I hate that.  I hate that I took it that way when this friend was probably intending to help console me.

So, where does that take us?

We’re back where we started from.  No more cheating.  No more being lazy.  Planning out every meal and every snack.  Keeping on top of moods and behaviours, and reading when to attribute it to food, and when to attribute it to stubborn kid.

Feeling on edge at every moment.  Not wanting to leave the house, because when we go somewhere?  Then I have to explain.  Explain to people who don’t understand, or who don’t care.  We got a few snide comments about taking our own homemade icecream to an icecream social on Sunday.  We get comments from family and friends about how we’re depriving our kids of a childhood by “forcing” them to eat this way.

We’re making an appointment with a local naturopath to see if there are some other things we can do.  We’ve already seen a doctor and a dietitian.  We’re considering spending a heck of a lot of money on testing to see if we’ve missed something, and also to be able to have something on paper that we can show people.

If this were a nut allergy, it would not be an issue.  Nuts would simply be banned, and no one would bat an eye.  Because it’s often not an instant reaction, people doubt us.  Judging from what’s been said to our face, I can only imagine what must be said behind our backs…

And yet, while I’m busy whining about spending 3/4 of my life planning and making our food, while I’m feeling discouraged that I have to doubt EVERY kind of food that isn’t made by us, while we can’t do this feed our kids thing the easy way….

This boy??
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He?  Is so worth it.  Worth every single second.

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I swear it was in our vows.

Jason, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?  To have and to hold, to love and to honour, and to clean up all the gross things that may happen from now into eternity?

 

Ja, while gazing deeply and lovingly into my eyes, “I do.”

 

Me, “Ha ha!  Sucker.”

 

He insists that those words were not in our vows at all.  I say they were.  Either way, he still cleans up all the gross things in this house.  Win=me.

 

When I got pregnant with Keyzia, I suddenly couldn’t change the cat boxes.  Well, almost 11 years later, and I STILL haven’t picked that one back up.  Puke, poop, you name it, he does it.  He rinses out poopy cloth diapers that have sat waiting for him all day.  He cleans up puke, both animal and human.  He is amazing.  (In more ways than just this, but this in particular these days.

 

It has been a really terrible winter for illnesses in our neck of the woods this year.  We seem to be getting hit over and over…  the up and down of the weather seems to make us really susceptible to every little bug that wants to squirrel it’s way in.  One gets it, then shares it with the next, and the next, and the next.

 

Bleh.

 

We’ve had the puke plague once now.  It ran through everyone but me.  I drank gallons of grape juice mixed with apple cider vinegar.  Seriously, I have never spent so much money on grape juice in my life.  But, I figured, it couldn’t hurt, right?

 

That was a few weeks ago.  Ja ended up taking a day off.  That night Eph was sick.  And let me tell you, he is the WORST one.  He was standing BESIDE the toilet, and puked all over the bathroom.

 

Ja, even though he had been sick that day, cleaned it up.

 

That man is a saint.

 

Saturday night I went to bed, and was all nice and cozy.  You know when there’s a chill to the room and you’re in that little space between being fully asleep, and just being content to be warm and cozy and relaxed?  I was there.  Only to be viciously jolted awake by the sounds of wretching.

 

My heart sank.  I just laid there for a minute hoping that I was dreaming.  Hoping that we weren’t doing this again.  And then, there it was…  Talya.  At least she made it to the toilet?

 

Every hour after that we’d hear the plaintive cry of, “Daaaaaddddddyyyyy.”  Then the retching into the puke bucket.

 

Ja got to stay home from church with Talya the next day.  I took the two older ones, who were showing absolutely no sign of illness whatsoever.  We do the church thang, and then… on the way home…  Eph exploded all over the back of the van.

 

Yup.

 

Nasty stuff.

 

When we got home and I broke the news to Ja, he just stared at me blankly for a minute, then said, “Well, I guess the van needed a good cleaning anyway.”

 

A saint, I tell you.  That man is a saint.

 

((I suggested just driving the van into the lake, and pretending nothing ever happened….  he gave me that look.  You know the one…))

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10 years and 2 months

Almost 2 months ago we celebrated the decade it’s been since the day I thought I had indigestion… the day when you decided you were finished with the cozy confines, and were ready to meet the world.

Ten

Why am I writing this post two months after that auspicious day? I think because it has taken me this long to come to terms with the fact that I have now been a mother for a decade.

Ten years ago I held you, my first born. Your daddy cried, as he did for all of you, but for you? It was the first time.

No hair!

You are our first everything. Our first daughter, the first grandchild. The first child I nursed, the first that learned to use the potty. The first to have tantrums, the first to learn to ride a bike.

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Ten has been hard so far. Last week my heart broke into little pieces when you laid your head on my lap and cried… you cried about how the boys always want you to do boy things. About how sometimes you want to do boy things too, but more often you want to do girl things. About how you don’t want to let the boys down, but most of the time, you don’t even know what you want to do. Who you want to be.

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In the past ten years you’ve wanted to be a ballerina, a gardener, a doctor, a mama, a teacher… right now you want to be a writer SLASH pianist.

Some days you are amazing with your little sister. Playing horseland, dolls, kitchen, whatever other kind of game you can think of. Other days you just want her to leave you alone.

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For your birthday this year, you decided to cut off your very long hair and donate it to have wigs made out of. My heart just about burst in that moment, and even more so when you were sad to see it go.

I think that you have been neglected in the past. Ephraim has demanded a lot of attention with food issues… with… well, Ephraim issues. Talya is the baby. You are the oldest, and therefor the most responsible. The one who takes care of herself. Lately, through your attitude, you have reminded me that you need me MORE now than maybe you ever did.

wall

I’ve always thought that parenting was hard. I’ve only just realized that the past ten years have been the easy ten. NOW is when it gets hard. Now is when you notice boys, now is when you need guidance, now is when you are really figuring out who you are, and what God has planned for you in this life. Now is when you need us the most.

Goop!

It’s a tough place to be, ten is. I remember ten (even though you roll your eyes when I tell you that). The pull to be more grown up, the yearning to stay a child. The wanting the more, but not being ready for it at the same time.

The other day you were sobbing on your bed, and your daddy asked me what was going on. I may have frustratedly said to him, “THIS? Is our life now!”

But you know what? This isn’t our life now. Because the sunshine always comes after the rain.

Every single day you amaze me with your determination, your thoughtfulness, your gentle nature. You are one smart cookie, my daughter, and God has great things planned for you.

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Sometimes, sometimes when I look at you, when I see your frustration with your sister and brother, when I see you wanting more, when I see you unsure, frightened… I see myself there. I see myself in you. I often pray that you would get the good things, and not be saddled with my bad things. My idiosyncrasies. I want you to not have to struggle the way I did. I want to take all the painful parts of growing up, the dealing with boys, the insecurity, the wondering who you are; I want to take that from you. Take it and make it smooth.

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I want your heart not to get broken, and yet I’m sure that it will. I want you to never feel like you aren’t enough, and yet I’m sure that you will. I want you to always KNOW, always always know that you are loved and cherished. You are a smart, beautiful, intuitive, sweet hearted young lady. You are a child of God. You are important, and you are special.

Funny faces for AmyJ

And when you forget those things? Daddy and I will be here to remind you.

Love,
Momma

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Supermom

A few weeks ago, we had some friends over for tea and dessert.  We were sitting around the table just chatting and laughing, getting to know each other better.  At one point, one friend said, “wow, you really are Supermom.”

It stopped me in my tracks.  I laughed, and just sidestepped what I assumed was meant to be a compliment, changing the topic, moving on.

Supermom?  Me?

I homeschool my kids, sure, I cook healthy food, for the most part, we’re involved in our church.

My kids are reasonably well behaved and articulate little monsters when we’re out in public.

 Funny faces for AmyJ

But, I think that calling me Supermom?  It puts down every other mother who may be doing something different in their parenting journey.

I think the woman who works all day, comes home, does homework/housework/quality time all in an evening is also a Supermom.

 Funny faces for AmyJ

The single mother who struggles to make ends meet, yet still manages to let her kids know that she loves them?  She is Supermom.

The woman who occasionally loses it and yells?  She is also a Supermom.

The one who spends six days a week in some arena or another?  Supermom.

The homeschooling mother who occasionally lets weeks go by without doing anything official for school?  She is Supermom.

 Funny faces for AmyJ

I don’t think that what you do with your kids is what makes you a mother.  If you let them fingerpaint in the dining room, even though it’s winter, if you grind your own flour, bake your own bread, have a 5 acre garden.  If your five year old is doing algebra, that is not what makes you a Supermom.

Women, especially mothers, are the worst group of people that I know of for comparing and judging each other.  We only let the “good” parts of ourselves shine out, so that when people see us, they don’t have a chance to know about the giant pile of dirty laundry in the laundryroom.  Or the fact that you had macaroni and cheese three days in a row.  Or that you haven’t picked up the math work in at least two weeks.  We don’t share that, and it makes us each think that every other mother on the face of the earth has it together… and we don’t.

When we are only portraying our Supermom traits?  And yes, we all have them, we are doing a disservice to other mothers.  We all struggle.  We all can only make it with the help of someone higher.

Here’s the truth of my Supermom-ness this week.  Monday was the only day we got dressed.  We have had oven baked fries twice this week, and eggs and toast for dinner the other nights.  The laundry is piled up.  The kids have watched an entire season of Little House on the Prairie in just a few days (and I am totally calling that our history lesson.)  My bathroom has mold build up in the shower and the walls, and I can’t get the disgusting crusty scum out of the toilet.  My kitchen floor is sticky from a maple syrup spill that happened on Monday.  Most days this week, I couldn’t be bothered making sure that the hooligans had brushed their teeth before bed.

Do I sometimes have it all together?  Sure I do.  But, most often?  I do not.

If your children go to bed at night, knowing that they are loved unconditionally.  If your children are raised with a love of the Lord, wanting to serve Him, knowing that He created them, and that He has a plan for them, then you, you are Supermom.

Even if your cape is a little tattered and torn.

 Funny faces for AmyJ

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