Saturday, August 11, 2012

Headaches, stress, pride, and living grace

I had dinner last weekend with some good friends. In the midst of my telling the wife how terribly I am doing with diet, exercise, and self-discipline, she told me I needed to give myself some grace. Her words were something like, "You are a single mom with two kids under five and a full-time job. If you met someone doing that, you would be full of grace for them, why not for yourself?" I scoffed at that at the time, just knowing I could do better than I was doing. My house could be clean. I could workout a few times a week. I could eat better & drink less caffeine. I could. I should.

And, for a few days, I had myself fooled. Today, I can acknowledge how foolish it is to not have grace for myself. But first, a caveat. I am, by nature, ridiculously lazy. I enjoy sleeping. And eating ice cream. And bad TV. And talking to my friends. And word games. And reading. I love to read. Sigh....

I am sitting here, head pounding, shoulders hunched over with stress. This post was written on a Saturday. The one day of the week I do not have a schedule in the morning. We like to visit the farmer's market, but we're not required to be there at a particular time. Saturdays are also the only day I can have both of my morning cups of coffee at home. No slugging it down in the car on the way to somewhere else. What happened this Saturday morning? The same thing that happens the other six mornings of my week. Baby Batman coos happily from his crib around 6. And 4-year old Chickadee bounces into my room around the same time and says, "Mama, is it wake-up time?" That question is repeated, at different tempos & volumes, until I grumble something from under the pillow that sounds something like, "FINE. It can be wake-up time." But this morning, something happened. I'm not sure if it's the baby's ear infection, my headache, or the 4 year-old's desire for cereal before 6:15, but our morning was rough. So rough, in fact, that coffee was all I had until noon. (And we love our breakfast around here.) By the time lunch was ready, I'd already apologized twice for being so grouchy, and probably needed to double that number. When lunch was over, I was nearly in tears because I wanted a nap. Sure, the kids needed naps, but I think I was the only one who actively wanted one. Instead, I had to get this out first.

Single parents (including me), it is okay if you're not perfect. It is okay if your house is not sparkling clean. It is expected that you'll be a little tense some days. Don't feel guilty that you don't have time to juggle all the relationships you used to juggle. Ask for help when you need it. People who love you & your kids will help if they can.

Friends of single parents (including you, whether you're married or not), offer to help. Show up one evening just to drop off a rotisserie chicken (even if it's not for dinner that night, it will be eventually). Offer to take the kids somewhere on weekends, even for a couple of hours. Volunteer to babysit one night a month (or once a week, even) at the kids' house, so if mom/dad is out, they won't have to rush home for bedtime. Offer to mow the grass (or just do it one day your friends aren't home, in case your friends are prideful & refuse help). And, and, and. If you think it would minister to you, try it out with a single parent.

Those things would minister to me so much (and probably other single parents, too), that I feel less hunched over, just imagining that ONE of them could happen. I'm not saying everyone can do these things, or that married parents don't also need help somedays, but I want to say, loud and clear, I know I need help. I need God's grace, absolutely, but also the grace of my friends & family & neighbors so that my family can see God's grace in you, His hands & feet, right here. I can't speak for others, but I would love to be surprised by that grace.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I Am Third.

"My first choice would be to go live with my mom. My second choice would be to live somewhere with my younger siblings. My third choice would be to stay with you." Truer words could not have come from my 12 year old's mouth. As much as she enjoys living with me, I am definitely third. She told me this, in no uncertain terms, about 2 months ago, and at that point, I was comfortable being third. Third place Olympians still get a spot on the stand and a medal, right? I thought I was pretty comfortable being third. Not the top of the heap, but not last, either.

Fast forward to now. There are plans, actively in the works, to have this precious 12 year old move to another state to live with her grandparents and her siblings. In my head, I am sure this is the absolute BEST thing for her, and her family. But, my heart is breaking a little bit. I had been able to convince myself that this was a mere 90% possibility, but after the past week, I know the wheels are turning to have her moved. "My" precious Big Girl is going somewhere else. I won't be able to hear her laugh. She won't ask for pizza & ice cream every night for dinner. She won't ask to stay up "just 30 more minutes" or play a game on the computer. We won't read together any more. We won't laugh ourselves silly, or cry when we forgive each other for hurts. She won't snuggle up against me at night to pray, or ask me to scratch her back when she lays down. My heart aches, and we have about 10 days left together. I'm sitting here tonight, with the littles sleeping & big girl out with friends, wondering what to do. How do we transition? How do I know she'll be okay?

I don't know. I pray. I have a glass of wine. I wonder about what it will be like when I am not first for the little ones either. I pray some more. I trust God to heal my shattered heart, and to mend their broken ones. I pray for the right words. I pray to only cry a little bit more. I hope the right words come when I tell the 3 year old where her "sister" is going. I hope she doesn't think brothers & sisters aren't forever. I remember that I signed up for this hurt, so that she would hurt less. I grieve.

But not yet. I hope I'm strong enough to love her well in her remaining days. I don't want to withdraw to avoid getting hurt. I want to send her to her family with the happiest of memories, not feeling like she escaped just in time. I want there to be that bittersweet mix of joy & sadness when she leaves, not just relief. But, like my 12 year old, what I REALLY want is home. I want to be in heaven, where there aren't hurts, or foster care, or orphans, or sadness; only joyous praise.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hard. Good. Truth.

I have been thinking about writing for a long time, but I have struggled to put my thoughts into words. Every once in a while (usually while driving or taking a shower) I will think of a really eloquent way to say a part of what's on my heart, but the busy-ness of life with three kids & 1 mom takes over and whatever that thought was escapes.

But, I am here now, so I am going to try to put some words down, to flex my writer's muscle once again. H, my 12 year old, is roller skating with a friend. Roller skating! I wasn't even sure kids did that any more. I am thankful for the family who invited her along. I had no idea a 12 year old would be so HARD. I mean, I was a terror at 12, but I thought I was the exception. Apparently not. H is not a terror, she's just hard. **EDIT I don't think she's particularly hard, I think any 12 year old, with hormones blossoming, and peer pressure, and moodiness, would be hard. I guess I just thought I'd be better at being her parent. The mom who took her roller skating texted me a bit ago with this: "She is a good kid. Very polite. You're doing a great job. Don't know if you hear it enough. Thank God for people like you." **I try to remember, often several times a day, that her being hard is not her fault. She has lived with me just under 4 months, and that is not nearly enough time to re-do the, shall we say, lackadaisical supervision she had with her biological family. I see so much of myself in H. When I was her age, I made up lies to my mom, just to see if I could get away with it. I think H makes up lies because they're less painful than the truth. I really don't even think I know all of her truth yet. Although I refer to her as my Big Girl, I think on the inside she is more like a scared six year old. She looks around at me, at the little ones in the house, and although she says she wants us to be her family, I think she really misses her mom & her siblings. Who wouldn't? Just today, when we were talking about school and consequences she said, "Why do you have to take things away from me? Haven't I lost everything already? I already don't get to see my mom and my sister." I tried not to react defensively, but instead to hear her pleading--why me? Heartbreaking. With her, and soon with the others, I know there are NO GOOD ANSWERS. I can tell her I am sad with her. I can console her & pray with her. But I can't tell her she hasn't had much taken away. How do I help her cope with being broken-hearted? I don't know.

With L, my Little Miss, days are getting better--mostly. With me, and with her baby brother, she is usually super-sweet. Don't get me wrong, she is still 3, but she's sweet. She is smart & funny. Just tonight, at dinner, she got to laughing so hard (at absolutely nothing) that she started spitting water & drenched the front of her shirt. But, with the Big Girl, my Little Miss is mean. She uses what we call mean words. They are not usually terrible or untrue things, but the tone of voice she uses is reserved exclusively for H. I used to ignore it & think, "Well, she's 12, she's not affected by a 3 year old's words." Wrong again, mama. When she told me that she thinks I love L and not her, it shattered my heart. I had to start paying attention! So now, at least 4 times a day, I sit with L and have her try again. How did you say that? Say that again. Ask for forgiveness. Hug. Move on. It is time-consuming, but worth it. Recently, at the park, L was playing & singing a song. I listened to it & cracked up. "What do you say? Sor-ry. When do you say it? Now." (Imagine it as a protester's chant. There. You've got it.) My words, her song. This is my life.

G, my Little Man, is awesome. He eats well. Sleeps like a dream--still. At nearly 4 months old, he's sleeping 11-12 hours a night & growing like a weed. When I see him trying so hard to roll over or hold his head up, and when he cracks up at his sisters' kisses & tickles (they say, "Mama/Amy, did you hear him giggle?") I cannot imagine a life without him. He is red-headed, still, with big blue eyes and a smile that almost never leaves his face. He especially loves H (most babies are just drawn to her), and his whole face smiles when he sees her. Someone commented the other day that he looks like a rooster w/his little red mohawk. I'm alright with that! He has lots of nicknames--GG, Bear, Brother Bear. With every one, I hear love.

Here is the dilemma most foster parents face, and I face it every day: They are not mine. I am not promised to be their mom. My job, my calling, is to be the best mom to them that I can for today, however many todays that may be. We are progressing toward adoption with L, and I am optimistic that will be completed. The other two loves are still question marks. What will happen? How long? Will they remember me? Will they remember how much God loves them? What's next? And more & more questions. More than I can bear some days. Then I remember that even in answered questions, there is heartache. The only reason they are with me is because they have experienced trauma. Piled on top of that trauma was losing the only families they've ever known. Even if none of them ever goes back with their biological families, there are still hurts to come. More hurts as they understand more about their history. Grief. Pain. Loss. Separation. Not knowing. Why?

Fortunately, God, my adopted daddy, bears me up. He promises he loves me, and them--more than I do or can even imagine. I am thankful for that. I pray I can somehow shine a little light into their lives--enough for them to see that God is SO good, even in their heartache & sadness. I pray-every day-that God would save them, save their birth families, heal their heartache, show them truth. I don't know how those prayers will be answered, but I trust in the God of truth to have it be for our good & His glory. That is a truth I am sure of & never question.