Still include in the better yet ideal return home


The ideal return Home

still includes someone’s eyes lighting up when you walk through the door

or better yet meeting you at your car door with an back breaking embrace already starting so you can’t begin to get out of the car

but not staring through you with resigned disappointment not seeing you as you come in.

It still includes knowing something of your current work or dream or project

or better yet bragging on your work to other family members and the unsuspecting neighbor passing by

but not nodding blank eyed with no recognition of who or what is important to you

It still includes being slightly embarressed of your buck tooth, four eyes 5th grade picture still up on the wall

or better yet displaying a montage of your kid’s photographs and accomplishments plastered on the fridge

but not having any recognizable part of your life on display

It still includes preparing a childhood soul-food

or better yet everyone sitting around the table reminicing about “the time when we made this dinner , and you remember when this happened, and we laughed…”

but not asking what meals you will be responsible for preparing while I visit

It still includes the obligatory visits to older family members

or better yet having an meaningful activity to do with the family members

but not rolling your eyes and visibly seething over difficult to love family members who go on and on about why you don’t bother to come see them anymore since their lives are miserable.

It still includes telling someone that you love them, and you are proud of them, and you miss them

or better yet showing someone that you love them, and you are proud of them. and you miss them

but not not telling someone that you love them, and not not telling them you are proud of them and not not telling them you miss them.

Still include love

or better yet grace

but at least one of these. 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13daniel-von-appen-262818Photo by Daniel von Appen 

Like crepe paper


This morning I’m spending some time researching in preparation for a parenting workshop I am presenting in September. The concept of intentional parenting is very personal. I adamantly believe in shaping safe and accepting environments for children to develop, expanding the definition of discipline pass punishment, and of being present and available for our children. I don’t believe there is a time we ever stop parenting. I think parenting should be a celebration of wins and losses with balloons and crepe paper.

I started reading Intentional Parenting by Goff, Thomas, and Trevarian. The first few pages of Chapter 1 describes a scene of parents dropping off their son at college for the first time. The father is weeping and says over and over again “I love you.” The mother is rattling off a million last minute pieces of advice and directions. Both parents are showing their love and attention for their son in that moment. They have an understanding that the window for teaching and instructing and influencing their son has just gotten a lot smaller. And I have to stop reading to gather myself.  The crepe paper gets a little ripped off the wall for after reading that first chapter.

It’s one of those things I hate to admit I still need. I hate admitting this is still a hangup for me after years of counseling and books and prayer and just pretending it doesn’t hurt. My maternal mothering stopped at age 12 with the death of my mother. The paternal parenting of me stopped at about 17 years of age. I didn’t make parenting easy. They still write books about kids like me. I couldn’t sit still. I would talk back or better yet refuse to talk. I would push and push and push the limits.  I intentionally screwed up. I had spent my whole life messing up and being inappropriately over-punished. And then I feel like I got dumped.

I don’t have a memory of being dropped off at college. I have a memory of being dumped at my first apartment by a highly angered father who was missing some game on tv to move me into my first place as a 17 year old. I figured out lease agreements, roommates, car repairs, college payments, how to not starve, and illness on my own. I have had the blessing of marrying at a really young age to a  wise man who has  intentional parents of his own. We’ve been able to navigate through young adulthood together and figure out all those other life lessons. But even this morning, as a 42 year old mother of three married for 23 years, I could use some parenting of my own. The last few years have been hard. I had incredible love, support, insight, from my husband and countless other friends and supporters. But there is this re-occurring theme in my thoughts and my writing. I still grieve a childhood. I still feel that I should be somebody’s child.  I wish someone was proud of me. I wish I didn’t have to walk on eggshells because I’m still pissing my family off and irritating them because I’m still not what they want me to be. I really wish my mom was here to talk through some things or just tell me it’s going to be ok. I really wish I had a dad that would recognize my stress and strain and just come up to be at the house with me, or change the oil in the car, or just want to hang out with my kids because they are my kids. As a supposed grown up, I still identify with my fantasy world characters of Annie, Matilda, and Harriet.

This is why intentional parenting is so personal for me. We have been given gifts from God in our children to cherish and mold and love and to point back to God no matter their age. Children are resilient but somehow so fragile at the same time. We need to come through for them more than just at birthday parties and other crepe paper events. We need to be in their daily lives. We need to be present. We need to teach them service to others by serving them in a balanced approach that is not over protective or spoiling them. We need to really really understand what unconditional love looks like by how it demonstrated to us through our heavenly Father.

Maybe then we will have even more reasons to hang up the crepe paper to celebrate rather than feel like the crepe paper that has been torn down and tossed aside.

The Privilege of Service


I’ve stalled as long as I can tonight at the Single Mom Support Group. I’ve set up dinner. I got the childcare volunteers brought up to speed. I put together this month’s gift of cleaning supplies and left them by the front door for the mom’s to grab on their way out. Earlier in the day Alyssa and I cleaned the offices, tucked away donations, and scrubbed the toilets before our guests arrived. I’ve visited a little bit with each mom and played a little bit with each kiddo. I found some job training resources for one mom.

But I need to get back to my family. I need our staff member to have the space to facilitate the group tonight.  I need to let our teen volunteers to pour love and attention on the sweet kids. I need to get out of everyone’s hair but I want to do it all. I tend to lick my paw and smear it all over what everyone else needs to do.

I don’t just let anyone interact with the residents at The Sparrow’s Nest or the clients of The Branch Resource Center. I feel fiercely protective of these women. The residents at The Sparrow’s Nest will not be part of some Poverty Petting Zoo. I’m not going to let someone who just wants to feel better about themselves work with young mothers. This is why I’ve made it challenging to become a volunteer that works directly with the residents. I don’t feel the residents need to prove anything to the volunteers. It’s the volunteers that need to prove their motivation.

The same is true of the women who come through the services of The Branch Resource Center. I will go to blows to protect their dignity. I don’t ask them why they need diapers or wipes or clothes for their children. For a woman to come to us and ask for those items takes a tremendous amount of humility and courage. For volunteers to work with clients of The Branch I need to know beyond shadow of a doubt they will look past face piercings and neck tattoos and see the true beauty of this woman. I even want to the dinner we provide to be one step up what you would normally bring someone.  I need to know they will not past judgement when they hear poor financial decisions. I need to see that their children will be loved on and appreciated for where they are in that one hour a month.

As I sit in the drive way of Sparrow offices  I feel my chest tightening and my eyes starting to sweat. I hurt for these moms but I am so proud of them for not giving up, for being so resourceful, to keep getting up everyday and trying again to take care of their kids, of themselves, of their lives. I want to accidentally sit next next to them at church. I want to see them on the flip side of this current season of their lives free and courageous and joyful. I’m so thankful for our staff members like Amanda taking the time to tailor the topics of the group to the members and for Alyssa creating fun crafts and activities that will reach any age of any boy or girl and for Sue going the extra mile to reach out to moms to remind them of the monthly meeting. I’m excited for our teen volunteers to giggle and tickle these precious children. I feel like singing the song “Furious.” I don’t know why we get to be a part of these little families lives but I am thankful for the privilege of service.

Fair Warning: Not buying into #mommyfail


I can be “that mom.” The mom who doesn’t take yesterday’s lunchbox out of the backpack and yet sends it back the next day not remembering to even empty it and put in a new fresh lunch. I lose the papers. I forget the parent conferences. I’m not ever going to be the Room Mom.

My youngest son broke both of his wrists this week. I wasn’t outside watching him because I’m sick and he’s 8 and I don’t feel like I need to hover all the time especially in our own backyard. Now, he is in casts up to his elbows for at least the next 4 weeks. It’s very difficult for him to do anything on his own. It’s been interesting to watch because as the baby of the family he already had a lot of things still done for him. But as the baby of the family I didn’t feel as inclined to baby him as much as perhaps his older siblings. Part of me is so thankful he wants me near him, he screamed for me when he fell off of our swingset. He begged me not to leave him the two days following. And he cried. He cried because he was hurt. He cried because he felt guilty for his choices that led to his accident. And he cried for what he would have to give up for now namely soccer and his birthday party. Could I have pre-empted this accident? Kept him from this pain? I don’t know.

It has been so hard to watch him go through so much emotional and physical pain. I would do anything to understand and feel what he was going through, to take this from him . But it brought me so much peace. Because as an adoptive parent you have this phrase of “Attachment Disorder” hanging over you. You read all these books that tell you your child will never feel whole. His heart will always grieve for what he lost even though he has gained so much. You start to over analyze and ask “when was the last time I saw him show compassion, when was the last time he cried, does he seem to enjoy too much torturing the crickets and lizards and frogs he’s always finding.” My son comes from a tough place and I find myself questioning do I hold him at arms length mentally for the day he wants to return to his “real family.” Do I create another hard place with my abruptness and directness? Will I push him away at some point because I haven’t grieved what we both lost out on September 23, 2006?

Part of me feels guilty also because of the inconvenience I feel towards having to return to taking care of his every need from feeding him, to dressing him, to wiping his bum again, leaving work to go feed him at school, etc. His very kind principal brought those feelings to the surface for me yesterday when he reminded me that he was just grateful my son’s injuries were temporary and this was just a season. My son will heal. And he will go back to running, jumping, taking risks, climbing up things he shouldn’t but the point is he will be a healthy whole boy not facing a life of disability.

I’m already feeling pulled a million directions for raising my kids and sticking to my guns of providing them a wide array of experiences in their youth to pull from when they are adults. I want them to be kids. I don’t want them to grow up too soon. But at the same time I have to teach them limitations, boundaries, and that their mom is not Elastigirl. This super mom is spending most of life worn out.
elastigirl

I’m reminded of all the world tries to sell you out in parenting, in adoption, in kids being kids. I see homeschool parents selling out public school parents who sell out public school parents. We are pitted against each other on the soccer fields, in the classroom, in the GAP ads, to the playground. We judge each other on the types of granola bars we buy our kids for goodness sake. I see parents trying way to hard. I see parents not trying near enough.

In the end I see my little boy who seems to be doing ok. He took delight yesterday when he figured out how to hold a crayon in his casted little hand. He figured out how to release his seatbelt. For the most part he could eat nachos on his own. My little man always seems to find the good in the small things of life.

For his day off school yesterday I took him to one of his favorite restaurants, Pizza Street, where he pigged out on pizza and ice cream. I took him to Petco where he loves to observe all the little creatures and recite facts about them from his hours of watching Animal Planet. I took him to Target to get some crafts and toys he could do with limited hand mobility. He bought 3 gifts to give to buddies that comforted him on the day of his accident. He snuggled into his nana’s arms. He cheered on his older brother during his play. He talked and joked and colored right smack in the middle of our family as we went out for ice cream. He snuggled with me as I read him another chapter from Ralph and The Motorcycle last night. He giggled during prayers. He wants his blankie named “Snugs.” He asked for a flashlight when the lights were turned off.

He seems normal to me. He seems happy. I think I can’t buy into the #mommyfail on this one.

I may be a slightly different model of motherhood


I can’t stop thinking about Mrs. Nancy Eisen. She got to go home last week to Heaven leaving an asteroid size crater here on Earth. I’m jealous. She left years of pain and suffering for all the good stuff we should all be holding out for. She didn’t settle for…this. But even though she knew she wasn’t destined for… this and she didn’t belong…here she made here as close to Heaven as she could.

Although known throughout the community for an absolute servant’s heart, providing for any need she could for anybody she could, my heart still resonates for how she served her family, children, and grandchildren. At her memorial service her daughters spoke of family meals, costumes being sewn, their mom at every event yelling just for them, driving from activity to activity as if she was meant just for that. 

I wanted to be that kind of mom. But the truth of the matter is motherhood has not come easy for me. As one friend said “motherhood has been the most stressful and the most rewarding part of my life but it’s mostly stressful.” It’s kind of ironic that I claim parent education as my schtick because I’m not that great of a mom most days. I don’t think about making cookies for school or cute homemade photo Valentines. I make the assumption my kids are doing ok in school because school officials haven’t contacted me yet. We have more ‘fend for yourselves’ nights than planned sit down family dinners. I’m glad to see my kids after school or after a long day but I around 4:00 I kind of look up and ask myself “should someone be home around now? Did I forget to pick up someone from school?” Laundry consists of telling them to toss it in the dryer or I’ll run by Kohl’s on the way to school. I make most of their games, some of their performances, and a few parent conferences. I refuse to take part in fundraisers. I wash their sheets when they make mention of how gross they smell. I haven’t bought the youngest a winter coat yet. They schooch mounds of mail and paper off the couch after jumping over a few tons of spilled legos. They don’t even seem to notice the fruit flies. 

I wanted to be the kind of mom that had kids in matching clothes, remembered school picture days, made dishes that they bragged about to their friends, wonderfully decorated kid bedrooms, at every event cheering them on, what every woman pictures as the perfect mom. But the truth of the matter is I’m anything but. I get up and occasionally make their lunches and warm up frozen pancakes in the microwave for them. I screech about frantically trying to find two socks that sort of match each morning while yelling at them for not getting their clothes ready the night before. I frequently text them saying “I’m late but on my way, stay under the light.”

As much as I want to be the beautiful, kind-hearted, nurturing soul of Nancy Eisen I just have to work with what I have. Maybe I’m not that great a mother because I lost mine so early in life. Or maybe I’m not that great a mother because I’m actually pretty lazy and selfish. For now, I hear my kids grumbling “what do we have to do to get a hot meal around here…” but I see them snuggle up to me for countless cuddles and kisses. When I do eventually get them to pick them up they come smiling and running and say nothing of condemnation but “hey mom, what have you been up to?” I hear them ask “what can we do together and what movie are we going to see next? and “mom can you pick up some more bagels and frozen waffles?”

As much as I screw up I have to believe I’m doing something right. If nothing else I married the right guy to go through life with these kids. 

They are My Reasons. I may not do mothering the way you’re suppose to but I love all my children fiercely and will fight dirty for them. 

Who is your model mother?

What part of parenting makes you feel guilty?

What’s your proudest moment as a parent? 

Why This Morning I Want To Wake The Dead


I’m a brain nerd. I love reading about brain development especially in early childhood but now in early teens, too. I love hearing about how the brain “re-learns” after trauma. Of course, I’m a self-confessed stalker so it’s fascinates me to no end when I can see something different is being thought in the head than what is being spoken in the mouth. You know what I want my super hero power to be. 

I’m waking up this morning fried. I’ve been in go mode with no real down time in I don’t know when. Between Alex’s surgery, Robert’s travel, getting over some virus thing, single parenting, closing on The Nest, working at The Nest, a 6 year old who’s forgotten how to sleep through the night, Emma starting high school , Sam starting middle school , and Alex transferring to a new school, and the housework just won’t seem to disappear no matter how hard I wiggle my nose. I’m zapped.

My brain is not operating on all eight cylindars this morning (and hush to those of you who question if it ever is). However, I’m reflective to where my brain is going this morning. I’m enveloped with that drape of loss and feel a new wave of grief over the death of my Aunt Susan and oddly enough my Grandpa. I’m so tired I actually processed the thought of needing to call my aunt and my grandpa to tell them about the kids starting new schools and The Nest and…and then finally that only non-exhausted piece of my brain kicking in with logic reminding me that my aunt has been in heaven for over 3 months and my Grandpa for over 10 years. 

Isn’t that weird? I mean, I actually had the phone in my hand. 

I know I feel alone, vulnerable, too responsible for everything, tired and all I wanted to do was lean up to two people that mean the world to me and told me I could do anything and rest. I want to watch cooking shows with my aunt and read. I want to sit on a deck with my Grandpa and fish. When all the other voices told me I was too loud or too spastic or not smart enough or not pretty enough these two people not only told me but showed me I was valued, I was beautiful, I was talented and I was important to them. But the most important thing they communicated to me was just to be me.  And that is so energizing for me. 

They would love me and be proud of just me breathing and that was so refreshing. 

So here I sit wanting to call to dead people and I can’t. 

I know I need to build in some margins again since I’m obviously losing it and want make a phone call to heaven but how do you create those boundaries when everything feels like its on your shoulders?

How do you get everything done that needs to get done and still stay upright?

Who refreshes and energizes you with their love and acceptance? 

9 Things I Tell My Daughter


Image

One of My Reasons- My beautiful daughter Emma

All my children are amazing. No really. This is not just a mom thing. All 3 of My Reasons are incredibly distinct and unique beings. I’m fiercely proud of them and protective as well. We spend a lot of time talking about their thoughts, dreams, frustrations. About our expectations, reassurances, advice, beliefs, and faith. Here’s 9 things I tell my beautiful daughter as often as I can. 

1. Nothing is more important than God

 No boy, no catty words from other girls, no job, no event. Keep your gaze set on Him. Don’t get sucked into stupid conversations. Don’t get distracted by worldly gain. Don’t start looking at yourself so much you forget who you came from and what you were meant to do this side of heaven. Focus on God, put Him first. Everything else pans out the way it should. 

2. Ask the questions, find the answers. 

There is no stupid question. You may not end up with the same question you started with but at least you started forward in finding the answer. If you want to know it, it’s worth knowing. Ask about people, ask their thoughts and opinions, ask about events and why they happened, ask about things to come and how you can be apart of it. Ask God why, how, who, and what. That’s they only thing I want you to wait on, is His answer. 

3. Don’t wait.

They say you won’t study Vietnam War for another 2 years but you want to know about it now. Study it now. You want to be an entrepreneur when you grow up? Make the business plan now.  You see someone in need? Don’t wait until you have all the answers and resources. Act and act swiftly. Hear a song? Sing it. Hear a poem? Write it. Ship what you have today now. Perfect it along the way. Only thing to wait on is God. But be ready to move when He says “go.”

4. Be a chronic reader. And then write about what you read. 

Leaders are readers. Strong women have knowledge. Read everything. Especially your bible. Read even things that aren’t meant for you. Especially things that others have banned. Then write about it so you can store in a deeper part of your brain and soul. Just stop using the word “tooken.”

5. Dont apologize for being smart and pretty.

A lot of people say you can’t have it all. You do. You are beautiful and intelligent. Grace and confidence will carry you far. People will underestimate what you are capable of because they will be distracted by your heels and bling. Don’t say your sorry for who you are. 

6. Fight. Fight dirty if needed.

If you believe in it, if it is yours, if it is for the underdog, if it’s a good cause, if it’s life and death, if it’s to give someone else a voice. Fight. Don’t ever give up. Have courage, fight through the tears. Fight me and dad if we don’t listen or try to block something you know God has put in your heart. 

7. Give

Generously give away your money, your encouragement, your laughter, your tears. Share your ideas, thoughts, and opinions. Give your time and talents. Share your songs, gifts, and beauty. 

8. Take Care of What You’ve Been Given

Exercise every day, eat strong healthy food, eat dessert and chocolate, guard your heart, protect your innocence, know where you laid your phone, don’t lose your kids when you have them, love your husband with everything you have, personally track your finances, change the oil in your car, take the trash out, keep track of time. 

9. Purposefully look for joy

There is so much pain and sadness. Always look for the joke and sarcasm. Bring the giggles and snorts and laughter with you. Find the funny signs, and odd people, and goofy sayings. Laugh until your sides burst. 

 

What do you share with your daughter? What do you want to impress upon her?