Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pre-Kids and Post-Kids Marriage

Pre-kids, my husband and I would:

---Sleep in on Saturday mornings.  
---Eat at a restaurant at a leisurely pace.
---Travel.  A lot.  We almost always drove, even it was to the East Coast (16 hours away).
---Go for drives.  (Yep, that's before gas was $4.09 a gallon).
---Read a lot of books.
---Sit through an entire church service.
---Go on double-dates with friends.
---Visit our families often.
---Spend hours cuddled up on the couch watching TV and eating snacks.
---Go for long walks.

Ahh.  Don't you feel relaxed just reading that?  :)

Our life now involves:

---Sleeping in maybe once a month, if that.   And it's pretty much a miracle.
---Eating in at home 99.9% of the time because taking the kids to a restaurant is disruptive, stressful, and expensive.
---Traveling long distances only by airplane, as I refuse to take two young kids on a 16-hour journey to the East Coast.  And even if you broke that into two days, 8-hours a day, listening to Dora or that annoying conductor on Dinosaur Train, or worse, Thomas and Friends---no way ever.   Traveling by plane costs so much more between plane tickets, baggage fees, and a rental car.  It's worth it.
---Baby E hates when the car stops for any reason.  Drives aren't pleasant.
---I read, when I can, but sadly, it's so rare to get more than a few pages in.
---I haven't sat through an entire church service without getting up with one of my kids, worrying about one of my kids, or cleaning up after one of my kids since Miss E's birth.  The first question I ask my husband after church:  "What was the sermon about?" (Even if I was the one who got to sit through it). 
---A double-date involves paying a sitter and paying for dinner. $$$  And about ten texts to and from the sitter.
---Visiting our family involves packing the entire car to the brim, praying everyone is happy and healthy, having a fab time visiting, and then coming home to recover for two days.
---We do spend a few hours on the couch every week watching TV and having dessert, but I usually get up a few times to do chores (switch laundry over, put dishes in sink to soak, or fold towels).   Most of the time we have plans to watch a movie, but by the time the kids are in bed and we've done a few odd-and-end tasks, we are too tired.  Plus, most movies suck, it seems, and are total time-wasters. 
---Long walks?  Nope.  Short walks involve thirty minutes to get them in the stroller (including packing snacks, diabetes supplies for me, water for all, airing up the stroller tires, forgetting three things...you get the picture).

I love being a mother.   Nothing is more rewarding right now than having my two girls climbing all over me, demanding my attention so they can share a silly dance move or say (gasp!) a naughty word like "poop" which makes us all giggle, and putting their sweet, tiny hands on my cheeks. 

It's exhausting.

It's exhilarating.

It's fabulous.

But, my poor husband.  Where does he fit in?  Where do I fit in?   We are supposed to be this fab husband-wife team who are crazy in love, passionate about Jesus, awesome parents, loyal friends, dutiful family members, stellar employees.     We are supposed to put Jesus first, our spouse second, and our kids third, followed by everything else.

Um.  Ok.  Sure.

The other night after the kids went to bed (get your mind out of the gutter, readers, this isn't going to be a sexy-time story...hehe), we went outside to load a rug into my husband's car so he could make a Kohl's run to return the rug.     We were laughing about how it appeared we were carrying a dead body to his car.  Then we hugged.  The weather was incredible---warm, balmy, and clear.  It was just us, outside.   It was the simplest moment.  But it was so refreshing.

I hate that my priorities are constantly backward.  I hate that I can't ever seem to get it right for more than a few days at a time.  (Though I am reminded that, hello, I'm not perfect and I will forever be screwing up and that's where God comes in).

I am reading, when I have time, two books that I'd like to share with you.   Consider ordering a copying or requesting one from your library.  I have found them to be insightful and interesting.   

Love and Respect (Dr. Emerson Eggerichs):  The book is redundant at times, and I haven't read every page because I got a little bored.  But the overall message is that men need respect and women need love, and when one meets the need of the other, a cycle of love and respect creates a healthier, happier marriage.  

Real Marriage:  The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (Mark and Grace Driscoll):  I saw the authors on The View one morning (which yep, they got grilled by those liberal ladies---but still fascinating).   The book is intriguing.  The authors talk about the subjects outlined in the subtitle, and thankfully, they don't use euphemisms for sex that have me rolling my eyes.   (My favorite:  "petting" and "necking"---what is it, 1950?)  

I'd love to be THAT couple----the one everyone is madly jealous of.  We walk into a room and people see us as passionate and energetic and soooo in-love.    Instead, we are really just so ordinary.   I hate ordinary.     I think these books are helping me learn more about how to be a better wife. 

Now, hopefully I can commit to these changes beyond a day or two. ;)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Here We Are....Again: Foster Care

Truth:  "The system" is brimming with children waiting to be adopted.   Their pictures break.my.heart.

Truth:  Many of these kids are in a sibling group---sometimes 2, 3, 4, 5,  6 or more siblings, all wanting a forever family without being split apart.  And I think, my girls know their biological family members---that is a blessing.  Of course these kiddos need to be adopted together.  Biology matters.

Truth:  Many of these kids are minority children.  

Truth:  In my hearts-and-roses world, I would adopt many of them.  I would fill my house with brown kids.

Truth:  I'm scared what these kids could bring into my home, what they could teach or do to my children, and I'm scared of their pasts and of their futures.

Truth:  There are over 100,000 kids in the US, domestic orphans, waiting to be adopted.  There are hundreds of thousands more in foster care who might become available for adoption.

Truth:  Kids in foster care are at a high risk to become teen parents, become incarcerated, or become homeless. 

Truth:  I've had my kids since a few days after they were born.  I have been the one to nurture them, mold them, teach them.  Yes, they do, without a doubt, mirror their biological parents in many ways.  However, I've been there every step of the way.   Could I take in a five year old and mold him or her into the successful, Christian human being I want them to become?    Or would it be too late? 

Scary truths. 

For one, I've been told that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for my family to be approved to adopt kids older than our current two.

For another, as we know, kids in foster care are in foster care for a reason, or maybe many reasons.  And none of those reasons are pretty.   And can I handle that?  

Oh yes, and there's this thing in my life called Diabetes.  It's pretty much a huge pain in the rear end at all times.   Stress raises my blood sugars.   Oh yeah, and parenthood is stressful.   The more kids, the more stress.

Oh, and adoption, it's a lifelong commitment.   There's no turning back.    At least, I feel that's not an option for my family.  I also feel that fostering is a commitment.  If the kids we foster become available for adoption, wouldn't we want to say yes, we'll take them?  Forever?

I like my Pottery Barn world a little too much.    What I mean is, I have it all, and I know it.    What if some of that is gone?   Am I willing to accept that?   Am I willing to turn my life upside down and inside out for the rest of my life to adopt kids who truly need a forever home?   GULP.

Steve and I are in the process of buying a new home.  It's big.  It's beautiful.   And there is the potential for, get this, 6 bedrooms on the top floor. Six.  A lot of kids could fit into our new home.     The house sits on a large lot.   There's plenty of room for kids to run, play, imagine.   

But I also know me.  I like a good project.  I like planning the next step.    And I don't want to treat adopting children or fostering children like a project, because it's not.   As I approach three months off work (summer, baby!), my heart is stirring.  I feel uneasy.  I've got to do something.

Every single time I sit in church, I think about foster care.  I think about everything we could provide children---a good home, stability, homemade meals, stories, cuddles, play time outside, attention, family, joy, encouragement, an accepting church.  

I think about how foster care is a ministry.  God calls Christians to care for widows and orphans.  What have I really done for either?   I could do something.

Every time I get gung-ho about fostering or adopting from foster care, my drive dies down, fading quickly, after just a few short days, or at best, a few weeks.     These kids need committed parents. 

And the system.  Sigh.  The system.  It's so jacked in our state.   Bio parents are catered to while children linger in the system, broken.   Not fair, I want to scream.

We have cared for two children in the past for our old adoption agency.  One of these children was my oldest daughter's age.  We had him for three weeks.  A few days into his visit with us, Steve and I were captivated by him.  I'm pretty sure he called Steve "Daddy."    He was so precious.   It was so hard to let him go after just three weeks. 

I want to protect my heart.  I don't want to share "my kids" with their biological family members whom I know have chosen behaviors that led to their children being taken from them.   I already don't want to send my foster kids on visits with their families.   I don't want to see the children get buckled into a social workers car and driven away.

I hate the lack of control I will have over these children.

But I just can't stop thinking about saying yes to fostering.

This post has been raw and real.   Don't judge me for my honesty and my misconceptions.  I new to this fostering thing.  I'm talking to foster families, I'm reading books and blogs, and I'm thinking.  

And I'm scared.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Happy D-Day to Me!

Today marks my sixth diagnosis-day anniversary.    

Type I diabetes.  Sigh.  

As I sit to type this blog post, I have little to say, for once, about my disease.   I feel like I've already said it all between my diabetes blog, the numerous diabetes-related articles and guest blog posts, volunteering, and the monumental task of living with this disease every day.

I am hopeful that there will be a cure for type I in my lifetime.  I pray that by working hard---eating healthy, exercising, carefully administering insulin, managing stress, etc.---that the cure will benefit me.    And if not a cure for me, for all the precious children who are newly diagnosed and their parents who live every day in fear and frustration as the family fights a disease that requires 24/7/365 management.     My heart goes out to those families.

Diabetes---it is what it is.   Sink or swim.  Do or die.   Get educated or get buried.    

I choose to live and to live well.   And I choose to not let diabetes win.  Ever.   

Thursday, March 22, 2012

YAY for Shuttefly!

One of their new customized photo books is called "An Adoption Story"---where you fill in pics from your adoption!   YAY for them for recognizing adoptive families as REAL families! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ask Rachel: Curious Friends + Articles on Race

C.M., mom of seven (4 biological, 3 via adoption), asks:

How do you respond when a friends asks too personal of questions...not just a stranger in a store...but a good friend?   As a foster parent, I am not supposed to divulge ANY information.   How do you keep that information private without offending your friend?


I have been exploring this issue myself lately.    And as usual, I feel my expectations are just way to high of people.  

For example, a few weeks ago my family and I walked into a Cracker Barrel for lunch.  There were two hostesses, one of whom said (THE VERY FIRST THING OUT OF HER MOUTH), "Are they [my girls] sisters?"   

I gave her the "mom-look" while my husband and I said "yes" at the same time.   The hostess noticed the look I gave her, paused, and then said, "Oh, I mean...is it a boy and a girl?"  (I guess Miss E's teal shirt and lack of hair bow made the hostess question the sex of my daughter...)

Eye roll.    I mean, really?!?   Ask a dumb question, and then follow it up by another dumb question...just in case the first dumb question wasn't enough.  

I expect these sorts of nosy questions from strangers.  It happens to my family time and time and time and time (and time and time and time...you get the point) again.    

Adoptive families, we generally feel that strangers have NO right to ask intimate questions.    In fact, if you are a stranger and see my family, you are allowed to say the following (in my humble opinion):

---What cute kids!

---How old are they?

---What fabulous hair accessories/outfits/shoes!

That's about it.

Oh, and the occasional supportive comment is nice.  For example, I was at the grocery store the other day with my girls when an older man approached us and said, "My daughter adopted two black kids.  They are grown now.  So tall those boys are!"   That was it.  I appreciated the connection he made with my family and that he didn't utter anything offensive, judgemental, or nosy.  It was sweet, really.

Otherwise, think what you want, stranger.  But as my mom used to tell my very outspoken little sister, "You don't have to say aloud whatever you are thinking."

I wish I could wear a shirt everyday (a cute one, granted) that says, "If I want you to know, I'll tell you."  Meaning---don't ask.  Just. Don't. Ask.  Because I think people generally ask questions in order to pass judgement.  To try to figure out adoption on their own and put that "figure out" into a neat little box which they will use to judge all-things-adoption against.     

But I digress.  A lot.  Sorry, C.M.!

I have a lot of awesome friends.  Have some of them asked questions that have me mentally cringing?  Yes.     What do I say in response?   Either I divulge too much information which I usually regret.  Or I say something nonsensical that has the friend so confused that she moves on to another topic.  (And I have to say much of this is my fault--I'm outgoing and love to dish with my girlfriends---but there's this line I just don't want crossed...and no one really knows what that is).

I think friends ask because they care.  At least my friends do.  I don't have dramatic friends---period---because I can't stand drama.   I want real, raw, honest, funny, down-to-earth friends----the type of friends I have.  

C.M.---Because you really aren't allowed to share information about your kiddos---I think you should say, "Foster parents aren't allowed to share personal information about their kids.  I hope you understand."

I think the bigger issue is when you adopt the kids.   For me, a friend asks an uber-personal question about my kids' history like "Why did their birth parents give them away?" or "How old are the birth parents?"---that I find myself answer generally.  For example, the "how-old-are-the-birth-parents" question. I say, "Most birth parents are in their twenties.  I know many people believe all birth parents are teens, but that's not statistically the case."   This educates, but it also doesn't reveal information I'm not comfortable sharing.  

It's ok for a child's doctor to ask about a child's medical history.  I think it's ok to tell your close family members, those who might spend time with your kiddos when you aren't around, some basic background info---because that could be helpful to them when caring for your children.   I think it's fine to share details of your child's story with those who can advise and educate you (such as other adoptive parents whom you trust).

I have often screwed up when it comes to answering questions.  I usually end up kicking myself for not answering in the perfect adoptive parent way.  But hey, then I realize, I'm not the perfect adoptive parent.  :O)   

---

Here are a few awesome articles on race:

My 12 year old son knows he could be Trayvon

White people, you will never look suspicious like Trayvon Martin


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Heartbreaking...

It's easy to zip through our days, focused on our career, our spouse and kids, our chores and to-do lists.   But there are moments in time when something incredibly devastating occurs, and not even to one of your own family members, but to someone who you think, wow, that could have been one of us.  

The murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is what I'm thinking about today.  As I sit here, both my girls napping sounding in their beds and the sun is shining and it's a lovely 80-something degrees outside, I cannot bring myself to concentrate on planning my next few weeks of class.  

I listened to the 911 tape made my Martin's killer, and it's haunting.   

I looked at the photos of Martin---whose baby face and wide eyes remind more of a child than a young man.

I looked at the face of Martin's killer, and I think, what drives someone to murder an innocent child?

I could launch into the whole "we live in a fallen world" speech, but it just seems inappropriate and unfeeling.   What explanation, what reason, what proverb or song can possibly explain such a horrific crime to someone like Martin's mother?    There is no justification.   There is no excuse.  There are no tender words that will bring comfort.

This story makes my heart shiver---with sadness, with anger, and most of all, with fear.

I'm the mother of two brown girls.  Say that one day they are strolling through a neighborhood with a snack in hand.  Say someone thinks that just because their skin is brown, the child should be watched and then yelled at and then shot.  

Denene, editor of My Brown Baby, suggests that if you are as angry as she is, you should consider sending a package of Skittles (or as one commenter suggested, a picture of a Skittles wrapper) to the Sandford Police Department.     We do this in support of the family.  We do this to overwhelmingly let the PD know that we demand justice for the innocent victim.   We do this for our children---many of whom are brown.  We do this because it is right and besides praying, it's all we can do for the family of Trayvon Martin.

My babies are still sounding sleeping in their beds.  I am blessed that they are there, tucked in.  Safe.  Happy.  Comfortable.    Trayvon Martin's family no longer has their precious child.     I cannot imagine their pain.   

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Out and About

I love writing.   I was born to write.  

I've been out and about in the writing world.   With two kiddos, a part-time job outside the home (which requires loads of time to grade student essays), and a household to manage, I don't write as much as I would like.   However, I love when opportunities present themselves.

This month I have an article in Diabetes Forecast magazine.  This is an article I'm quite proud of.   March 24th marks my six year D-Day (diagnosis day) anniversary---a day that is bittersweet for me.  Also this month, my friend Amy Mercer, a fellow diabetic and author, featured my story on her book's blog.   

Writing is a powerful outlet.  I encourage you to figure out how to incorporate personal writing into your life----blog, journal, write notes on napkins, whatever!      And if you've always wanted to "be a writer," offer to write some guest blog posts for your favorite bloggers or online magazines just to get yourself out there.   

Happy writing!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wall Art

As we prepare to move into a new home and I enjoy endless hours of online browsing, I came across some art that features darker-skinned people on Kohls.com   Kohl's is one of my favorite stores because with one of their credit cards, you are offered exclusive (and frequent) discounts on top of sale prices.   These are $50-$60 each at full price, but many card holders enjoy 30% off coupons PLUS the opportunity to earn Kohl's cash ($10 Kohl's cash for every $50 spent).  Additionally, there's free shipping if your purchase is $75 or more.   

A girl on a swing

A boy playing baseball

A boy surfing

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Earrings Winner!

Melissa!

Please contact Holly via Etsy to claim your prize.  Congrats!  :)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Giveaway!

Meet Holly, an online friend of mine who sells fabulous products on Etsy!    She's also an adoptive mama of three little ones.

Photo credit:  Yin Tang







I wanted to know more about Holly.  First off, what advice does she have about adoption?  And then, what does she enjoy doing?  Finally, where can we find her fabulous products such as earrings and paintings?  Here's Holly: 

 I guess if I had to pick just one thing [to share about adoption], I would want to let people know that in many ways, my family (built through adoption) is just like theirs. The love and unity that's felt in a family joined by blood, we feel that same thing. We're not just playing house; my kids are not a charity case, they're simply my kids. There's a lot of loss in my kids' lives that they will have to deal with, and are dealing with, but arching over all of that is love and joy... we're blessed to have each other.
I'm an Art and Spanish teacher turned stay at home mom. I love my job and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world! My husband and I live in a small Northern Michigan town with our three children (ages 9, 5, and 1), our dog, and our cat. All year around, our favorite activiy is hiking! We have endless trails in our neck of the woods and live just 15 minutes from Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. In the winter we enjoy cross country skiing and in the summer we like to bike and sail. There are so many hobbies that I enjoy but a few of my favorites include baking, reading, knitting and painting. I love working with oils and a palette knife, or watercolors and brushes. It's almost time for me to get back into painting... my fingers are itching and my body is buzzing for it! I just have one knitting project to finish and then I'll put my needles down until this Fall.
The Treasure Trove is a shop where you will find a variety of items, rather than just one type of craft. At any given time you may find crocheted and knit items (I'm especially proud of my Norwegian Knit mittens; they are truly a labor of love!), hand crafted jewelry, and original paintings, prints and notecards. I welcome custom orders, so if you have a favorite color and don't see it there, just contact me!   Find me also on Facebook

Giveaway Item:   1 pair of earrings

Giveway Entry Period:  Now until 3/13 at noon (central time). 

Ways to Enter:  (Please leave a separate comment per entry)

1:  Become a fan of Holly's shop of Facebook and leave a comment telling me you did so.
2:  Blog, Tweet, or FB this giveaway, and leave me a comment telling me you did so.
3:  Become a follower of my blog, and leave me a comment telling me you did so.
4:  Follow my blog on Facebook, and leave me a comment telling me you did so.
5:  Visit Holly's Etsy shop, The Treasure Trove, and tell me what your favorite item is via a comment.

The winner is responsible for setting up an Etsy account and contacting Holly via Etsy to claim her prize. 

 


Monday, March 5, 2012

Women's History Month: Friends

If you only do one thing for Women's History Month, mail a card to a friend who rocks.  Tell her why she's a fab friend and woman.   Let's appreciate one another, inspire one another, and life up one another.   There are so many forces that drag women down---including fellow women and oursleves.     Let's combat that with a little love.

xo

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Women's History Month!

Happy Women's History Month!

Read some fabulous books to your children to celebrate women.  Here are just a few of our favorites:

Marching With Aunt Susan

I am Rosa Parks

Vision of Beauty

Tough Chicks

My Name is Not Isabella

Madam President

Moses:  When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom


This is also a great time to purchase/borrow books on female self-esteem and confidence.  A few of our favorites include:

Dotty

Beautiful Brown Eyes

Me I Am!

Star of the Week

I Like Myself!  (Just saw an interview featuring Viola Davis who read this book to baby, Gensis, she recently adopted)



Other ideas:
  • Celebrate Biblical women, modern women, women who impacted Black history (or whatever race your child is)---talk about powerful women who have done great things.
  • Find out women who pioneered in a field your child is interested in (sports, science, teaching, etc.).   
  • Talk about the women in your family and how they have made you a better person.
  • Write a letter to a woman you admire and send it to her.
  • Take gifts to women at local nursing homes.
  • Using popular magazines or the Internet to print pictures, create a posterboard of powerful women (or cheaper than buying a posterboard is using a cardboard box you already have).   I love getting Essence magazine which regularly profiles fabulous women of color. 
Just do something to celebrate being a phenomenal woman and show your daughter(s) that women can be powerful, influential, and confident beings.

How do you plan to celebrate Women's History Month?  I'd love more ideas!   











 
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