Tuesday, May 31, 2011

AC and Tractors and Snow...Oh My!

It's roasting hot today.  Just like yesterday.  And the sun and I aren't exactly friends.  The good news is, today I'm sitting in my air conditioned living room instead of baking in the warm air outside.  What's the downside?  Our window air conditioning unit (which my wonderful hubby installed for me at 6:00 this morning) has been stored all winter in our musty basement, which I'm allergic to.  Consequently, I'm also allergic to the air conditioner, which insists on blowing thousands of evil little musty spores directly into my habitat.  So I'm sneezing, my nose is running, and my eyes are itching terribly...but at least I'm comfortable.  Kind of.  

Hey, I'd rather be allergic to cold air than swelter in hot air.

Is it just me, or does Memorial Day always seem to top out the thermometers?  I know it did last year, because I distinctly remember coming home from the Memorial Day parade half burnt.  It was the back half.  The front half was still white as snow.  Lobster back, snow front.  No bronze in sight.  I told you...the sun and I don't get along. 

So yeah, Memorial Day.  Our family always goes to the Memorial Day parade in the little podunk town where my husband teaches.  It's an awesome parade.  Well, not awesome in the normal definition, but awesome for podunkville, where your value is determined by the size of your tractor.  Their parade is simple and 'old-fashioned America' charming.  There are no impressive floats, no giant balloons, no uniformed marching bands or cheerleaders, and there are no Shriners, no clowns, and no big politicians looking for your vote.  But what they do have, they have plenty of:  kids on decorated bikes, dogs with patriotic collars, local business owners pulling flatbeds full of flag-waving family members, horses, candy.  And.... tractors.  Lots and lots of tractors (all different sizes, too!). 

We now have a candy supply (I call it a "temptation supply") that will last us until Halloween. 

When it will be cold again.

Although, knowing Michigan, it could be cold again tomorrow.  In the wee hours of tomorrow morning, it's entirely feasible that my poor husband could be forced to take out the air conditioner and return it to the musty basement because Michigan has forgotten again what season it should be.  Just like in April, when it was 80 degrees on April 10th, and my kids wore short-sleeves and sundresses to church.  Eight days later, on April 18th, there was a blizzard.  I sent my kids to school in snowpants.  Sundresses and snowpants.  Only in Michigan. 

Michigan frequently gets distracted and forgets what it's working on... 

We have something in common, Michigan and I.  We both have ADHD. 


Friday, May 27, 2011

Still Good

A little girl in my son's fifth grade class lost her daddy this week.  It was a tragic accident, leaving three kids fatherless and a woman- a wife, a mother, a friend, a partner- to navigate life alone.  Honestly, I can't think of many things that could be worse.  Maybe it's because I am a mother with young kids, and I can't fathom losing my husband and setting out to raise our family without him.

I mean, how do you possibly explain to a kindergartner that Daddy is never coming home?  How do you watch your eleven-year-old daughter's heart break, knowing you can do nothing to ease the pain?  How do you deal with the knowledge that your toddler will never remember his father?  That they'll never play catch in the back yard? 

What does it feel like to look ahead to every single upcoming event in the lives of your children and erase your husband from the scene?  Concerts.  Vacations.  Birthdays.  Championship games.  School dances.  Graduations.  Weddings.  How can you imagine a daughter's wedding without her proud father walking her down the aisle?

My heart is breaking for this family.

Tonight, my heart also breaks for my son, who has gotten more than a glimpse of real heartbreak this week.  His classmate and her family have been on his mind constantly for the last two days, and his tears are evidence of a true compassion that's growing and maturing within him.  He's struggling with why God would let this happen.  He doesn't understand.  Quite frankly, I don't understand, either. 

But then again, God doesn't stop being good just because we don't understand what He's doing.

God can use the most tragic of circumstances to spread His glory among His people.  He can make beauty spring forth from ashes, and shine the light of life on even the darkest of places.  A few years from now, I am confident that somewhere, somehow, some good will have come from this tragedy.  It may not be obvious, especially to this wounded family, but I am confident nonetheless.  God is always faithful.

In the meantime, I am reminded that life is not only precious, but temporary.  I want to treasure the moments God gives me with my family.  I want to cuddle my kids, laugh with them, make memories with them.  I want to kiss my husband on his way out the door, and tell him that I love him.  That I appreciate him.  That I need him.  And I want to implore him to please drive safely and come home to me at the end of the day.

Because I can't imagine going through life without him.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ladies, Let's Get Real

Okay, ladies.  I have something on my heart that I think needs to be talked about, and I wonder if maybe....just maybe...you might feel the same way.  If you do, then it's worth discussing.  And if you don't, then pretend you never read this and continue on in your blissful little world of contentedness.

Ladies, I'm afraid of you.

Terrified, to be exact.  I mean, look at you.  Perfectly thin.  You just had a baby, and you're already wearing your skinny jeans.  Have you ever heard of carbohydrates?  Have you never been tempted by a big fudgy brownie?  How do you get your metabolism to do that?

And you.  How do you have a perfectly coordinating pair of shoes for every single outfit you own?  I don't have time or money for shoe shopping (or outfit shopping, for that matter), and I'm not nearly as put together as you.  Yet secretly I yearn for your fabulous footwear instead of the smelly old sandals I threw on this morning. 

Then there's you with your beautifully dressed and well-mannered children.  Every time I see them, they look perfect:  clean and matching clothes, bows in pig-tailed hair, hands folded in laps, using inside voices.  I strongly suspect they're even bathed regularly.  Is every day a Sunday in your house?  Because I can barely pull it off once a week.

You.  With the clean house and the gourmet cooking.  You know who you are.  The perfect homemaker.  I was content with my dust bunnies until I met you.  I was satisfied with spaghetti and hot dogs and Taco Bell.  Your laundry is folded, your counters are wiped, your clutter in invisible, and your house smells like apple pie.  How you do it, I will never know.  I bet you don't even have crumbs in your van.  Me either.

To the beautiful ladies:  do you roll out of bed gorgeous, or is it your life's work?  You're always manicured and pedicured and highlighted and styled.  I am not.  Your makeup is flawless, mine is put on while driving.  I find it difficult to keep up with your perfection, especially when I don't hit enough red lights to do my eyeliner. 

To the athletic: your body is perfectly toned and in shape.  Mine too.  Do you actually enjoy exercise?  Because if you ever see me running, I guarantee there will be something ferocious chasing me.  Like a bear.

And then there's you.  My hero.  My heart's desire.  The perfect servant.  I am in awe of you.  You give willingly of your time, you serve God and others with a smile on your face, you sacrifice your life daily for the good of others.  I see no selfishness in you.  I want to be you.

You intimidate me.  All of you.

What is it about us, ladies?  Do we truly believe that there's someone out there who has it all together?  Why do we always compare ourselves to each other?  Maybe it's because we don't notice the imperfections until we really get to know one another.  Do we only see the strengths, the "perfections", the things we wish we also had?  The things we feel we're lacking?

Is it possible that we're scared of women that are different from us because we're afraid we'll find out that we don't measure up?  That we won't be accepted?  That there's something unforgivably wrong with us?  Are we that insecure in who God created us to be?

I've had the amazing opportunity to get to know all sorts of women in a couple different arenas this year.  At first, I was scared of some of them, uncomfortable and intimidated by them.  But as time has gone on, I've realized that no matter how different we all are, I have something in common with each and every one of them imperfection.  

So, ladies: the skinny, the stylish, the "perfect" mothers and homemakers, the organized, the beautiful, the athletic and the servants, and also the intelligent, the talented, the funny, the daring, the outgoing, the compassionate and everyone else I missed:  let's stop being intimidated by each other!  None of us is perfect.  All of us have our struggles.  Instead of categorizing each other based on the false "perfections" that we see, let's get to know each other and then be bound together by the imperfections that we all share.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Bad, the Good, the Great and the Ugly

Saturday, we had an overwhelming day.  It began in the usual sort of way for our big, unorganized family.  Frustratingly.  By the time we had finally gathered all the things we needed and accomplished all the tasks that needed to be done, our slightly temperamental vanful of people pulled out of the driveway about an hour later than planned.  And as if we weren't late enough, we then waited for twelve minutes in the Burger King drive-thru for the breakfast we 'didn't have time' to eat at home.

It was a bad morning.

Our first destination of the day was a two mile walkathon called the "LifeWalk".  This is our family's new tradition, collecting pledges and walking together to support our local Pregnancy Resource Center.  In our kids' words, raising money to help babies in their mommies' tummies, and to help moms know their babies are special.  All of our kids got involved, and together we raised $200 for something we believe in. 

It was a good thing to do.

After the walk, my parents took the kids, and adoring hubby and I went out for the day.  Alone.  Without the children.  Okay, so we brought the baby with us, but it was still the first time we've been relatively alone for even a few hours since well before he was born. 

While out, we did something else that we don't ever do: we spent money on each other!  Quite a bit of money, by our standards, and it was a little overwhelming to buy expensive gifts.  But it also felt really significant- ten years of marriage should be marked by something a bit on the extravagant side, don't you think?  I feel a little scandalous right now not wearing a wedding ring (especially walking around with five children!), but I can't wait to have it back complete with my new anniversary band!

We had an awesome time together, one of those perfect 'throwback to dating' days with no agenda.  We talked, we fed the baby, we shopped, we went out for lunch, we fed the baby, we looked at diamonds, we bought diamonds (yay!), we fed the baby, we laughed, we had ice cream.  Just like dating...except the baby part.  At the end of our "alone" time, we were refreshed, and we remembered why we usually like each other. 

It was a great day. 

We picked up the kids, who had been to the kite festival with Grandma and Papa, and got an excellent report on their behavior for the day.  But almost instantly, I could tell that Miss M had no intention of making the evening easy for us.  She intended to make us miserable.  Over the next couple of hours, she did her best to ruin the day.

I won't go into detail, but the evening culminated in the kind of tantrum that forces one parent to physically restrain the little-girl-turned-animal creature for hours, while the other parent gathers the four remaining kids into the furthest corner of the house and watches a movie (or listens to music) at an abnormally loud volume.  They wouldn't be able to sleep anyway, and at least this way, while the screams can still be heard, the blasphemy and disrespect is drowned out. 

Sometimes my husband and I have to relieve eachother from the restraining duty.  It's physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting, and her rages test our dependence on Christ like nothing else.  This particular tantrum was a payback for going out on our date, a bold statement of "I don't need you. I've got Grandma and Papa and their love isn't threatening to me", mixed with too much excitement and too little sleep.

It was ugly. 

But such is life. 

Sometimes it's bad, sometimes it's good, sometimes it's great, and sometimes it's ugly. 

In our case, it's often the good and the great that cause the ugly.  But we can't stop seeking out the great because it brings the ugliness with it.  It's good for us.  It teaches us.  The bad makes the good great, and the ugly makes the great glorious.  The trick is finding the joy, or at least the peace, in all of it...and learning to rely on God no matter what the day brings.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Family Resemblance

Recently, I've been struck by the resemblance between my five-year-old daughter and my three-month-old son.  They look remarkably alike, especially in their baby pictures.  In fact, all three of my biological children have a strong resemblance to each other.  And my two adopted children, who are siblings by birth, also look incredibly alike....some people even ask if they're twins.  I know that genetically speaking, it should be no shock when siblings look like each other, but I just think it's cool.  It gives families a sense of belonging to one another.

Even more interesting to me than physical characteristics are the mannerisms we share in our family.  And this crosses the genetic lines.  My eleven-year-old son, even though he was adopted (at age seven, for that matter), has developed the same dumb sense of humor as my husband and me.  Sometimes he says things that are so stupid, I just can't help but grab him up in a big bear hug.  He makes me so proud!  Some of our other kids have budding senses of humor, too, and it's hilarious when our toddlers find the same things funny as we do. 

Our kids mimic us in other ways, too.  I love books, they love books.  Daddy loves sports, they love sports.  We love music and performing, they love music and performing.  Their voices have the same inflections as ours.  They use the same phrases as we do, make the same facial expressions, and use similar hand gestures.  They even pray the same way we do.  True, we don't all look alike, but we've become recognizable as a unit, and our words, mannerisms and actions scream to the world:

"We are a family!" 

But I'm part of another family, too.  God's family. 

God's family members certainly don't all look alike.  We don't dress alike, have the same interests, or live the same lives, but our words, mannerisms and actions should still show the world that we're a family.  As followers of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, our character qualities should be the same:
             Love,       Joy,     Peace,   Patience,             Kindness,     Goodness,  Faithfulness,      Gentleness,                                 and   Self-Control. 

Easy things to list, harder to live out on a daily basis.  But as difficult as it may be, the fact remains- these are the qualities that identify us as belonging to the family of Christ.

How much do you resemble your family?

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."  Galatians 5:22-23 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Fear of Wii

I'm afraid of my Wii Fit.  Seriously.

I used to love my Wii Fit.  It was nice to me.  Complimentary even.  I loved standing on my balance board, weighing in each day, waiting for that little "boodaboodaboop" sound as it told me how many pounds I had lost since the previous workout.  Back when I had time to think about getting healthier, when my little Mii kept getting skinnier and skinnier, and I would skateboard and hula hoop and cycle to my heart's content. 

Back when my Wii Fit was friendly.

In case you haven't met one, the Wii Fit is a lot like a Pit Bull.  Sure, it looks all nice and fuzzy and innocent.  It wants you to believe that its your best friend.  But if you look the other way for a week or two, or a month, or an entire pregnancy....
                                     ...it attacks.

I'm scared to death of it.  I haven't subjected myself to its judgment for almost a solid year, ever since the waves of first-trimester nausea set in.  And I know what it will tell me when I finally brave the balance board weigh-in once again.  "Boodaboodaboop!  That's obese!"

Curse you, Wii Fit!  I detest the power you hold over me, and the fact that the only reason I haven't visited in so long is that I know you will be cruel.  You will make me account for my weight gain, forcing me to choose from your unfair list of causes, which do not include "spent the better part of a year growing a human".  You will then taunt me by turning my Mii into a cantaloupe on toothpicks.

Poor Mii.

One of these days I'm going to conquer my fear of the Wii Fit.  I'm gonna climb courageously onto that balance board and tell that thing who's boss.  Sticks and stones, baby, sticks and stones.  I'll dry my eyes, keep my chin up high, and accept my cantaloupe-Mii for who she is.

And then I'm gonna hula hoop like a mad woman.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Power of Veto

I'm head over heels in love with a smallish gentleman with a receding hairline.  I love him so much that something deep down inside of me flips whenever he smiles.  And I'm pretty sure he has a thing for me, too, because I catch him looking at me all the time!  In fact, something tells me that there's no place on Earth he'd rather be than in my arms, being smothered by my kisses.  And, man, is he beautiful to look at.  A work of art.  A masterpiece of creation.

If I'm being completely honest, I suppose I'd have to say that he's not always a gentleman.  He frequently burps out loud, screams at me, and emits unpleasant odors (even in public), but I love him just the same.  I'm thrilled to have finally met this man of my dreams three months ago, and I know our relationship will last for the rest of our lives.  Hopefully by then he'll have some teeth...and be more than two feet tall.

Let me introduce you to my precious little gentleman,  Baby K.  Isn't he scrumptious?  I thoroughly adore him, as does our entire family, but I have a confession to make.  Baby K was completely unplanned.  We weren’t expecting to have a baby.  Ever again.  Yes, we do understand where babies come from, but in a Biblical marriage, abstinence is simply not an option.  (As a side note, my husband also approves of this arrangement.)  We were taking all the necessary precautions, but God, in His infinite wisdom and mysteriousness, simply exercised His power of veto on our decision to be done.  This, of course, is perfectly within His rights to do - let’s call it a perk of being the Almighty Creator of the universe. 

Have you ever noticed that every single method of birth control available, even sterilization, has a failure rate?  I call it a veto rate.  It represents the number of times God has said something along the lines of “I understand your desire to not have a baby right now, but I respectfully disagree.  And since I’m God….”  End of discussion.

For a few weeks after we found out, I was very upset about being pregnant again.  My "baby" had just turned two, and I was starting to feel some freedom from being tied down with an infant.  I was able to do more things for myself, to use the gifts God had given me in different ways....ways that didn't always involve diapers and bottles.  My husband and I were finally recovering from becoming parents to four children in two years, were learning some therapeutic parenting skills to help with our two traumatized children, and were beginning to thrive as a family.  I had also spent the previous year losing 73 pounds, and I didn't want to start all over again.  I was bummed.  So I spent a few days crying, and then I said:

 "Okay, God, but this one better be a missionary or something...
                           ....and I want an easy delivery!"

As soon as I let go of my own plans and embraced God's plans, I fell in love with that little life inside of me just as easily as I had with the other two.  And now that he's here (it was an easy delivery!), I can't imagine life without him.  Baby K is such an incredible blessing, it makes me sad to think that there was a time when I was sad that he existed.  I was wishing I could turn down one of God's greatest blessings for less
work, a little freedom, and skinny jeans.  How selfish.

I'll be forever grateful that God exercised his veto power and gave us Baby K.  He's a lot of work.  I don't get much sleep, I'm overwhelmed all the time, and I feel like a dairy cow.  Having five kids is tough, but I'm less selfish than I was a year ago...and that makes me truly happy.

Will there be more babies?  Let's just say we're praying on it.  We've decided not to turn down any more blessings for selfish reasons, and we want to do what God wants us to do, not what's easiest for us.  For now, we think our hands are pretty full...but we're very aware that God always has the power of veto! 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Burritos + Hockey = Love

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our tenth anniversary.  Years ago, we had planned to celebrate our tenth anniversary by taking a second honeymoon to the west coast to see the Redwoods and Giant Sequoias.  Instead, we ordered take-out burritos and listened over the radio as the Detroit Red Wings lost game seven of their playoff series.

I know what you're thinking.  Nothing says romance like big bean burritos and hockey. 

But we weren't completely without romance; I discovered a dozen roses waiting for me after my husband left for work in the morning (actually eleven roses, as a cat had eaten one during the night), and we exchanged love letters during the day.  We fed the kids dinner, put them to bed, and had the rest of the evening to ourselves....and the baby....and the Red Wings.  It was a nice, companionable evening, although I suppose it could have been better.  The Red Wings could have won.  Stupid Red Wings.

Don't worry, hubby and I will be going out on a "real" date next week, and exchanging anniversary gifts for the first time in our marriage.  We've agreed that this anniversary is one we want to commemorate with something big (though we had a baby instead of seeing the Redwoods).  Ten years is an important milestone, after all.  Especially with all we've made it through. 

Ten years ago, I married my best friend.  The only person that could make me laugh any time and anywhere, and that made the dullest of my moments come to life.  Passionate about music and creativity and intelligence, he loved me when I feared no one ever really would.  And so I married him.

We've done the usual in our marriage:  gotten new jobs, became first-time homeowners, redecorated our home, purchased cars, acquired cats, became parents for the first time.

We've done the unusual:  acquired LOTS of cats, formed a band, sung at coffee shops, recorded a CD, adopted older children with special needs, had a surprise pregnancy, became parents for the fifth time.

We've experienced the good:  camping, car trips, family vacations, picnics, bike rides, late-evening badminton games, hours of Boggle...or Yahtzee...or Skip-Bo, cuddling in front of a movie, two adoptions, the births of three babies, watching our babies grow- first smiles, first steps, first words.

And also the bad:  the death of our favorite cat, the loss of beloved grandparents, two tough deliveries with terrifying moments, a baby born with a noticeable birth defect, two children with attachment problems, hours of raging tantrums- feeling helpless, hopeless, angry and ineffective as parents.

But there's more.  In our ten years of marriage, we've also been through addictions, painful confessions and altercations.  We've at times been completely devoid of trust and intimacy.  We've been heartbroken and afraid.  We've had moments when we didn't think it would work, when it felt like there was nothing worth saving.  There came a time, though, now several years ago, that we were able to celebrate my husband's salvation and turn our marriage over to Jesus.  It was then that we learned something:

No marriage is perfect, even if it looks like it from the outside.  Some people are just better at building a facade than others. 

We all bring our own sins and our own baggage with us into our marriages, and they are bound to affect it.  But the same ugly hurts and betrayals that Satan uses to destroy marriages can be used by God to strengthen them ...if only we will let Him.

Ten years ago, I married my best friend.  We're still best friends, but it's been quite a decade.  We've laughed, we've cried, we've loved, we've hurt.  We've walked our own way, and we've walked with Jesus; we're learning what it means to die to ourselves and serve each other...to wash one another's feet.  One thing is for certain: we know way more about true love- Christ's love for us and our love for each other- than we did on our wedding day.

To my wonderful, God-fearing, hilarious, musical genius (snob) of a good-looking husband:  after all Jesus has brought us through, I would still marry you all over again.  Let's go see the Redwoods at twenty years...K?  Stupid Red Wings.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Woe to Peanut Butter M&Ms

Oh, cookies straight from the oven, how you tempt me. 

Oh, fluffy warm bread, how you beckon me.

Oh, brownies and cakes and candy bars, how you make me drool.

Oh, carbohydrates, I love you so.

Why do I want what isn't good for me?  Why do I crave the sweet, the gooey, the hydrogenated?  Why must I scoff at the green and leafy?  And turn up my nose at the vitamin-fortified?

Woe to you, peanut butter M&Ms, for diving into my cart this week.

Woe to you, box of day-old donuts.  You offer satisfaction at forty percent off.

Woe to you, most delectable ice cream.  Why must you always be on sale?  You exist solely to taunt me.

Oh, carbohydrates, I love you so.

Curse you, forty pounds, left over from pregnancy.  How I wish you would melt away into the abyss and torture me no more.  Curse you, oh slow metabolism, why must you be so thorough?  Why must every calorie I ingest fall captive to your evil plans?

Oh, sweet, horrible carbohydrates, if only I could blame you for all my troubles.  You are to blame.  You are a temptress, for a fact.  But the true culprit is me...and my lack of self-control.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."  Galatians 5:22-23a  (emphasis mine)

Looks like I have something else to work on.  Here goes....

Bless you, oh celery stick.  You're so nice and...um...crunchy.

Bless you, oh broccoli.  Your miniature trees are actually quite cute.

Bless you, oh spinach leaf.....

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Greatest Job in the World

Being a mother of young kids means that sometimes you have to say things you never thought you would have to say.  Things like:
                                          "Don't sit on your brother's head" 
     "It's not okay to shoot the cat" and 
                            "Get that leash off your sister"  

Being a mother of young kids means that your house is decorated with stuffed animals, toys and books, and this is the most presentable your living room ever gets...

Your countertops may be littered with grimy fingerprints, picked flowers, dirty dishes, baby bottles, and crafts that your children have given you (notice my fish trivet).

Being a mother of young kids probably means that your idea of dining out has changed a bit....

And a night away from the kids means that you and your husband get your own booth.

 Being a mother of young kids means that you get less sleep,
                 have more messes to clean up,
 more tears to dry,
              and less time to yourself (or with your friends or your spouse).

It means that you have things greater than yourself 
                                                               to love and worry about and pray for.

But your arms are the safest of places...
                               ....your smile is magical...
                                                 ...and your kisses have healing powers.        

Being a mother of young kids means that sometimes you might find a cat in a pink tutu sitting on your toilet...

....and it will remind you that you have the
                           greatest job on Earth.

We have the power to nurture.
We have the strength to mold.
We have the love to overcome any obstacle.
We have the awesome responsibility of raising Godly, caring, and serving children... 
                       ...and then releasing them into the world.

                   We hold the future in our hands.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Time-Bomb Mom

I had an unexpected early Mother's Day present today.

It started with a tantrum.  Not a huge one by Miss M standards, but a tantrum nonetheless.  I was doing a really good job of controlling my anger, until all of a sudden, she pushed me too far (I don't even remember what she did), and for a moment I snapped.  Instead of the calm and controlled exterior I've been working on so hard this past year, Miss M found herself faced with a slightly-crazed Time-Bomb Mom. 

Time-Bomb Mom is my alter ego.  I wish she didn't exist at all, and while she doesn't visit as often as she used to, she sure doesn't stay away for as long as I'd like.  One second I was calmly saying something to a raging 8-year-old (even though I was boiling inside), and the next I was picking her up to carry her to our "tantrum chair" (affectionately called the blue chair), nearly in a rage myself.  In the midst of Miss M's kicking and screaming, Time-Bomb Mom thought it would be a good idea to yell something like this: "Do you hate me so much that you're going to treat me like this for no reason?!  Is that how much you hate me?!  Because you wouldn't do this if you didn't hate me!  Why do you hate me so much?!"

Not my proudest mothering moment, true, (Time-Bomb Mom is a lousy parent) but the strangest thing happened when I repeated those words.

Miss M said she didn't hate me, and she stopped throwing a tantrum.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it is.  Scott and I have often tried to explain the ferocity of these RAD tantrums to other people.  We've always said (completely hypothetically) that if Miss M was in one of her rages, and if we told her that if she didn't stop we would cut off her arm, and even if she completely believed that we would do it, she would still be powerless to stop. 

Yet today she stopped because she didn't want me to think she hated me.  Which means that the love between us is stronger than her anger.  It's stronger than her tantrums.  Her love for her mom is stronger than the Attachment Disorder that often rules her life.

Which means that there is still hope for my little girl.  And that is a priceless gift indeed.

Friday, May 6, 2011

How Direct Can He Get?

Do you ever wish you could just get a text message from God?  I feel that way right now.  I would settle for an old fashioned letter through the US postal service.  Or an email.  Maybe a phone call, or even a telegram.  Anything.  Anything that would tell me exactly what God wants for me or for my family.  I want a direct answer to my prayers from God Himself.

You see, there's been something on my heart for several weeks now, and I know the idea was not my own.  I'm positive of this, because following through on this idea would force me to be more selfless than I've ever been, and I'm rather content with my current level of selfishness.  But the still, small voice keeps asking this of me.  So I'm having a one-sided conversation with God, reminding Him of my inadequacies and failures, and of my lack of motivation and skills needed to accomplish this thing.  I'm sincerely hoping that He'll give me an alternative because He knows how little I want to do this.  I keep looking for a way out, yet I'm fairly certain God has given His final answer already.

Which brings me back to the text message or email thing.  No doubt, it can be very hard to decipher which paths God wants us to take.  It would be nice if we were born with a lifetime itinerary that detailed all the major decisions we would have to make, but I wonder if sometimes we don't make it harder than it is.  If we're really, truly praying for God's direction in our lives, then He promises to answer.  Is it possible that He is sending "email messages" that we never open?  Do we mark them as "undeliverable"?  Or spam?

Maybe He's answering our prayers and we just don't like what He has to say. 

Sometimes God's will looks nothing like our own.  Sometimes He asks us to do things that are terrifying or painful or that we just plain don't feel like doing.  Are you ignoring that still, small voice?  Or, like me, are you willing it to say something different?  If you are, then I don't think getting a text message, an email or even a phone call from God would make any difference...not until we start caring more about His plans than our own.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Melodies of Harmony

Here's a trivia question for you.  If you were a fly on the wall of my home, what one thing would you notice a lot of?  Tricky, I know.  Any guesses?

Hmmm....Children, you say?  Fairly obvious, I should think.  But not the answer I was looking for.

Cats?  Ahhh, yes.  Anyone who knows us also knows that we have more felines than any sane family has business having.  But, you see, we've never claimed to be sane.  Try again.

What's that?  Dirty laundry?  Very funny.  Point taken. 

Clutter?  Ouch.  Anyone else?

Chaos?  True.

Arguing?  Unfortunately true.

Dust?  Now that's just cruel.  And also true.

No, no, no.  All valid answers, I suppose, but the one that I was really looking for was this:


Singing, you say?  Why singing?  Because singing is what I use to deal with all the other overwhelming things in my life.  You know, the children, the cats, the dirty laundry, the clutter, the chaos, the arguing, and even the dust...but especially the children.

I am the self-titled Queen of Stupid Family Songs (the songs are stupid, not the family).  It all started five years ago when Little Miss J was born.  She was great and all, but she didn't actually do anything, you know?  At least not for a while.  And if you know me, you understand that I don't sit and do nothing very well.  (To clarify:  I'm actually very good at sitting, I just need to have something to do while I'm sitting...like blogging).  So instead of just staring at Baby J all day, I started singing to her.  Before long, I ran out of songs that I knew and began to write my own.  We had songs for diaper changing, feeding, and bathing.  We had sweet baby songs and mad baby songs.  We had the "Cutest Little Baby in the Whole Wide World" song and the "Mama Loves You So Much" song.  As Miss J has grown (and as we've acquired more children), the list of songs has grown as well.  

Most of my Stupid Family Songs are simple, as they're usually written on the spot, and many have interchangeable lyrics; for instance the "Mad, Mad Baby" song can easily become the "Stinky, Stinky Baby" song or the "Pukey, Pukey Baby" song if the need arises (and it frequently does).  Most songs end with a really awesome and cheesy "yeah"!!!  I've also written songs about frogs and dinosaurs and such, but as the kids have gotten older, there are more and more obedience-themed songs emerging.

If I feel like I'm about to explode at my kids, I try to sing instead.  If they're arguing, I sing the "Mom's Not Going to Argue with You" song.  If they're trying to be the boss, I sing the "Mama is the Boss" song.  If they won't stop trying to convince me of something, I sing the "No Means No" song.  If they are going slower than humanly possible when getting into the van and buckling up, I sing the "Put Your Heiney in Your Seat and Buckle it Up" song.  And if I really feel like I'm going to scream at them, I sing the "Mom's Going to Scream" song.  It's perfectly acceptable to scream at your children while singing.  Besides, my kids love it, all the tension is drowned out in laughter, and our family is harmonious once more.  All because of my stupid little melodies.

Try it.  You don't have to be a singer or a songwriter, just borrow melodies from songs you know and add your own words.  You don't even have to be on key!  And who knows?  You can't ever be the Queen of Stupid Family Songs, but you could always become a princess.

By the way, I'm willing to share...let me know if there are any songs you want to hear, and then tell me how to post them!  I can't figure it out  :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Be and Let Bea

On Easter Sunday afternoon, we brought our family to a nearby nursing home to visit.  The kids had spent a good chunk of the previous day making crafts to distribute to the residents, and on Resurrection Day, it seemed important to not only celebrate with baskets and family and church, but to go out and share what Christ had done with others.  So off we went to our nursing home to share the love of Jesus.  We've done this a handful of times, usually putting on a little concert (although not on this occasion), singing hymns with them, handing out crafts or pictures the kids have made, and then just talking with the residents (they love having kids around).  Then our family goes home, all of us feeling good about ourselves and our good deed, and we go on with our lives.  Eventually, I'll think about how long it's been since we've been there, or since our kids have done anything to serve others, and we'll go back.  But not for awhile.  After all, we have five children.  We're a busy family.

This time at the nursing home, though, we met a new woman named Bea.  Bea lives in the building next to the one we usually visit (we had never been there before), but our kids had made so many crafts, we had to expand our ministry!  A nurse told Bea that we were coming, so she was in her room waiting for us as we made our way down the hallway.  She invited us in, and then did something none of the other residents had done that day: she asked each of us our name, and then repeated them as if committing them to memory.

Bea talked to our kids and thanked them for coming to see "this Grandma", and like many other people that we visited with, Bea thoroughly enjoyed our company.  She seemed excited when I suggested I would come back with the little ones to talk to her sometime.  Someday soon I will, but again, we have five kids.  We're a very busy family.

Very busy.  Today, for instance, I got two kids ready, made their lunches, and sent them out the door to school.  Then I got the remaining four of us ready and out of the house just in time to get to ballet...eight minutes late.  After ballet, we stopped at home and I made lunches for the kids, which they ate in the van on the way to Meijer.  I was getting the baby out of his carseat and wrapping him into my Sleepywrap so I could carry him, when I was horrified to discover that he had blown out his diaper.  Poo was everywhere.  Oh, joy.  I was forced to perform some award-winning diapering maneuvers in the front seat of the van, during which the poo-covered baby smiled and cooed profusely.  I then put him into the "emergency" diaper bag outfit, which he promptly puked all over.  This was apparently quite exciting, as he was still bubbling over with glee.  To top it all off, the baby that had been thrilled while saturated in spit-up and something that resembled Dijon mustard then proceeded to scream all the way through the grocery store.  Double joy. 

Some days it's incredibly exhausting to have so much to do and to be needed by so many people.  

As I was vacating the grocery store with a cart full of groceries (tired children and screaming baby in tow), I noticed an elderly gentleman near the exit.  He was wearing one of those awesome little hats that only elderly men can pull off, and he was all alone.  Using a cane to support himself, he watched our little circus as we paraded by.  And for some reason, the sight of him reminded me of Bea.

Now nursing homes are full of little old ladies that love visiting with children, but there was something different about Bea...a sort of sadness.  When I asked her about her family, I understood.  Bea has very little family.  She'd only had two sons, and one of them had passed away after a lengthy illness.  Her grandchildren are few and all grown up.  Most heartbreaking of all,  Bea recently became a widow.  She's all alone, with nothing important to do, and with no one that thinks she's something special.  No one needs her anymore.

All of a sudden, I'm realizing how blessed I am to have work to do.  To have groceries to shop for and meals to make.  To have a smiling poo-covered baby that needs me.  To have a whole houseful of children that keep me busy and think I'm the greatest thing in the world.  What joy!  Because someday this part of my life will have passed, and I'll be sitting somewhere wondering where all the time went.  Just like Bea.

We are a busy family.  I am a busy mom.  But I'm not too busy for a lonely widow named Bea.  I think I'll go visit her tomorrow.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dandelion Days

It's that time of year again, when the newly-green landscape is freckled with sporadic dots of yellow, and the gardener begins his yearly battle with the hardiest of weeds.  A frustrating season for those afflicted with lawn envy, and a blissful season for wild, long-eared vegetarians.  Yep, you guessed it.  It's dandelion season.

I have a love-hate relationship with dandelions.  I hate them in my lawn.  I hate them in my garden.  I hate them growing in the cracks in my driveway.  Mostly, I hate them. 

But I love the completely stemless ones pinched between my son's chubby fingers and offered up as treasures.  I love them squished together in sloppy bouquets and arranged in vases on my kitchen counter.  I love "Dandelion Days", when the sky is blue, the clouds are fluffy, and there's nothing more important than holding little hands and picking dandelions.  Today is a Dandelion Day.

If I let go of the weed stigma and try to see them through the eyes of my littlest kids, it's easy to love dandelions.  They're a tiny drop of golden sunshine in an otherwise endless sea of green.  But besides being precious to my kids, there's another reason I love them. 

Dandelions remind me of how far I've come.

Miss M was four and-a-half the first spring she was with us.  Most of her time she spent trying to make us as miserable as possible (we later learned she suffers from an Attachment Disorder, or RAD).  Sometimes, though, she would be playing in the yard and she'd come in with a dandelion to give me.  It was never a grand presentation, just a monotone "I picked this for you".  I'm now ashamed to admit that I rarely showed much enthusiasm for her offering.  I remember telling her that they were weeds and asking her to take them back outside, using allergies as an excuse. 

Why?  First of all, I was an inexperienced parent.  Maybe I was trying to punish her for putting me through hell since almost the moment she walked through our door.  But more than that, I was (not purposefully) withholding my love from her- protecting myself from the inevitable rejection she would hurl at me sometimes only moments later.

Before you judge me too harshly, please concede that you know nothing about living with and attempting to love a child with an Attachment Disorder.  Unless, of course, you do, which means that you will understand where I'm coming from.  Having a daughter like Miss M is not like having a biological child with a problem, or an adopted child without one.  It's unique in that you have no bond with your child (from birth) and you have almost no way of forming one (because of the problem). 

Children with attachment disorders believe at their very core that they are worthless (because of abuse, neglect, trauma, separation, etc. in the first few years of life), and will do ANYTHING to convince the people trying to love them that they are unlovable.  Parent figures are vehemently pushed away, because these children have learned from past experiences that parents can't be trusted to take care of them.  They will do anything to keep from loving you or admitting that they need you, and to keep you from loving them, because if they are dependent on you, they're no longer in control- they're vulnerable and they feel like they could die.  Love is terrifying.

When Miss M came, I loved her with my whole heart.  I poured myself into her.  We baked cookies, we colored, we played, we sang songs, we read books, we cuddled.  For a short time, it seemed like a mother's love was all she needed, but as soon as Miss M suspected that I was here to stay, I became a threat to her.  And she became a monster.  She ripped my whole heart into pieces.  I picked up the pieces, taped them back together, and loved her as well as my taped-together heart could.  Again, she ripped it to pieces.  I taped the pieces back together and tried again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  But the more times I had to repair my tortured heart, the weaker it became.  Eventually, I had no love of my own left to give her.  That's where I found myself that spring when she started bringing me dandelions.

 And then a funny thing happened the following summer.  My emotionally stable, nurtured baby girl, Miss J (then 2), began bringing me dandelions.  She brought them to me proudly, clasped in pudgy hands and accompanied by toothy grins.  And I realized something.  No one taught her to do it, she brought them to me because she loved me...the same way her big sister loved me even though it scared her to death.

A lot has changed in the four years since Miss M first brought me dandelions, and at the same time nothing has changed at all.  We still have tantrums, although fewer and further between, and usually after she's felt particularly vulnerable or loved or close to me.  She's made great strides, but always ends up relapsing and trying to push me away.  We go through weeks and sometimes months of backslides, but come out stronger on the other side.  I continue to guard my heart too much, but I'm learning not to let everything affect me, at least not for long.  My heart still isn't strong enough, but God's is, and now I draw on His strength to love my daughter.  

And another thing has changed.  Miss M stopped bringing me dandelions.  Seems someone told her they were weeds.  Now she and her big brother bring me bouquets of wild violets and grape hyacinths, along with several varieties of weeds that they find on their walk home from school.  If they find out that they're weeds, it won't be from me.  In fact, they aren't weeds to me.  They're beautiful symbols of love and appreciation and acceptance that neither one of my damaged kids knows how to put into words.  So I cheerfully gather them up, arrange them in vases, and display them proudly for all to see...even if I can't stop sneezing.