August 26, 2013

Joy in Transition

This season of life is so incredible.  I can't even begin to describe how wonderful all of the unexpected blessings are that are bringing joy to our lives.  It's like the calm after the storm that was the Great Summer Disaster of 2013.  I'm choosing to believe that this is the calm after something instead of the calm for something gearing up.

Moving into our new house has been a dream.  Kamron and I sit on the porch at night with a glass of wine or a cup of decaf as and we look out on the fields I can't help but say every night, "Can you believe we get to live here?"  I wonder if he'll ever get tired of hearing me say that every day.  He says he won't but there's only so long that you can take a broken record, right?  The kids bounce out of bed in the mornings before school and run to their windows and scout for deer.  Waking them up used to be like pulling teeth- now the thought of seeing the deer family that lives in the backyard is the perfect incentive to get sleepy kids out of bed.  We have the most darling neighbors, and the most darling neighbors that are going to be moving in soon.  It's like living in a commune where the kids all go back and forth between each other's houses and the moms send each other texts like, "Sarah's going to just eat dinner with us" and "We just cut down some trees in the back yard and we are going to burn them- bring some marshmallows and let's make s'mores."

Home sweet home.

I think that when we turn onto our street, time warps back to the 1950's where it feels safe for the kids and life slows down and makes sense. Time this summer, did not make sense.  Fostering was, perhaps, one of the most trying times for our family.  I'm not sure if it was the age dynamics, or the fact that two of our kids had the exact. same. name. (For real) or violent parental reactions, or fear of my kids getting hurt, or being cramped into the world's smallest rental with four kids who could not get along or the stress of building a house, or  all of the afore combined- but it was a disaster of the worst kind.  

I have never cried more than I did this summer.  I worried continuously.  I felt like my house and my life were out of control.  I felt like the happenings going on in my home were not anything that I designed and I couldn't seem to get a grip on how to reign it back in.  I felt like I could not be myself and we could not be the family that I knew we were supposed to be in our own house.  It's amazing how one child (who was a great kid) can change the dynamic so much.  

My kids were miserable driving to parent visits all the time.  They felt scared in their own house.  And the fighting.  Oh. My. Word.  My kids had never been fighters.  Sure- they bickered over toys and things sometimes, but they didn't fight to hurt each other in word and deed.  Until this summer happened and it was like a free for all of hurt feelings and manipulation designed to inflict deep wounds.  I wondered if we would ever feel normal again.  I lived in continuous fear- that my kids weren't safe, that I was causing them irreparable damage and heart ache and that they would never be the same sweet kids I knew they could be again.

And then, just as quickly as the storm started, life snapped right back to normal the minute our foster daughter left.  We all became people that we didn't like when she lived with us.  It was not her fault at all.  She was just being and living what she knew.  It was just our reaction.  I wish that our reactions had been better.  The learning curve was steep. We loved on her and treated her like one of us while she was with us- but the "us" changed so much that I didn't even recognize it.  Fostering pulled out every bit of ugly in me.  I heard one time in a chat room, "If you are going to be an adoptive or foster parent- you better deal with your own sh!t first because it's going to bring it all out and leave it as a present at your front door."  I thought that I had dealt with all my stuff.  I didn't even realize that there was still stuff in me to deal with until it was all there- like the present waiting at my front door.

I think that I learned more about myself and my capabilities in those three months than I could ever imagine.  I learned more about my kids and my husband and about the power of nurturing those relationships.  We still are in touch with our foster daughter and this is a much better relationship for us than the day to day raising of her.  It's amazing to me, though, how things just snapped back to normal once she was gone.  Our kids became the kids we knew again.  I stopped feeling angry and stressed and worried all the time.  I felt like I could look at my husband again and not want to smack his face off.  

Those three months gave me such an appreciation for my kids and their personalities and their strengths.  Six weeks removed from the whole situation- I can absolutely look back and say that I'm glad that we did it.  I'm so glad to have gotten to love on another child for a short time.  I glad for the things that we learned about ourselves along the way.  And I'm also glad that we aren't doing it right now.  I know that people are supposed to say that it's so wonderful and that you get to impact a child's life.  While the impact part is true, it almost destroyed me and my family.  Going forward, I'm not sure it's the right space for us and I am totally okay with that.

I think that moving houses, for me, signified so many things- the end of fostering, the beginning of being open to what God would have for our family and being okay with that no matter what it looked like.  I just have such peace about our future for our family.  Taking time to nurture our kids in the transition has been life giving- for me and for them.  I think that so many times we have these grand ideas, especially when you want to be doing something good, that we forget to nurture what we are already blessed with.  I think that of all the things that I learned through our fostering experience, appreciating the children that I already have and loving them through their faults and celebrating their uniqueness is the lesson that will stick with me the longest.  Parenting had become such a chore to me.  I'll admit that I was just going through the motions with my kids.  This experience taught me to be more present and loving and to recognize mothering for the privilege it is- instead of seeing it as just another pile of laundry or another meal to make.  

So for that, I'm grateful.  But I'm even more grateful that it's over and that our hearts have time to heal and reconnect.  Reconnecting is so much fun.  There are precious treasure to be found in the reconnecting.  I'm just feeling so incredibly blessed.  My usual "keep it realness" has been totally highjacked by a goofy grin and overwhelming happiness.  I think I'll invite it to stay a while. 

Life from the last few months:

 Maui, Hawaii

Miles' 5th birthday

 My beautiful mom

 All knocked out in the same bed

Noah making stacks of pillows in his new room

 Noah learned how to ride without training wheels!

 Sadie went to church camp at the same camp I attended as a kid.  

Isn't this how everyone catches some sleep at the airport?

Sadie and her friends dressed Miles up.  This is going to look great on his wedding video.

My girl is going through her "wear my fake glasses everywhere" phase again.

My  handsome boys.

I walked up on this beautiful father/son moment.  Noah and Kamron talking about life and watching the grass grow.

Kamron and his dad after a hard day of working on the millions of things that need to be worked on when you move into a new house.

Hot air balloons launching from a neighboring field

Kindergarten is awesome!

August 19, 2013

More Love Mama

When I was in the throws of waiting to adopt Miles, there were a few blogs that I stalked religiously.  One of those was Carrie's blog.  She and her family were bringing home their son Haven from DRC as we were filling out paperwork.  I literally updated her page 20 times the day that her husband flew out to get Haven.

Since then, Carrie has become "my people".  We met in real life almost 3 years ago and when I picked her up at the airport I held out my arms and she dissolved in to a puddle on the airport floor right in front of baggage claim.  That's how life giving our friendship became for each other.

Not long after we met, Carrie called me and said, "We are thinking of adopting again.  Are we nuts?  We already have two kids and we are old!" (Her words, not mine!)  Then those "old nuts" ended up getting a referral for two boys (when they requested a girl) and said yes to both boys.  Manny and JoJo joined Grace and Haven in their family.  Then what seemed like 5 minutes later, Carrie texted me some pictures and said, "So, there are these two little girls that need a family and I think we are going to do it."  One of those precious little girls passed away from malaria before Carrie and her husband, Brian, could get her home.  We mourned that loss so hard.

But since Brian and Carrie were already in the mindset to bring two children home, they said yes to the referral of another little girl and Louise and Katriel joined their growing brood not long after.  So those dear friends who said, "Are we nuts?  We already have two." suddenly found themselves with SIX!  (And four of those were in diapers!)

Somewhere along the way, Carrie decided that she would use her sewing talents to help raise money to bring home their children.  After those children were all safe and sound in their family, she kept sewing and donating a portion of her proceeds to humanitarian aid in the Congo.  Carrie's standard response when people would ask them "Why in the world do you want to adopt MORE!?" was always, "Because there is more LOVE!"  And so her sewing led to opening an online store called More Love Mama.  Carrie sells everything from African print dresses and skirts to Christmas stockings and African fabrics by the yard.

I wanted to share Carrie's talents with you, so we are teaming up to give you a chance to win a $50 gift card to the More Love Mama store and 2 More Love tee-shirts.

It's super easy to enter using the widget below.  We'll pick a winner next week!  Thanks More Love Mama for being our blog sponsor for the last few months and for all you are doing to give back to children in the DRC!

August 16, 2013

A teeny tiny overdue update

Just a quick little update to say that we are doing well- oh so well!

It's been a month of changes around here.  First of all, we said goodbye to our foster daughter.  We still keep in touch with her but the whole experience has taught me that we are probably not the kind of people who are cut out for foster care.  Holy moly- it is a roller coaster.

Secondly, we moved into our dream house (and were without internet for nearly a blue moon or a fortnight- I don't know how long either of those are, but whichever is longer is probably more appropriate)  We are LOVING being in our home.  The kids feels so settled here.  We sit on the deck at night and watch the mama deer and the baby deer play in the field.  We have room to roam and we feel like we can breath again.  It was crazy the instant calm that seemed to come over our spirits when we coupled the move with going back down to three kids instead of four.  This house felt like ours from the minute we moved in.  It was so much fun watching it go up and even more fun living in it.

Thirdly, the kids started back to school.  All of my babies are finally in all day school.  The first day they went back, I crawled back in bed and took a five hour nap.  Nine years of getting them to this point evidently made me tired!

I will post so much more later- this is just a mini update.  It had just been an entire month since I last posted (yikes!) and quite frankly, if I have to endure another text from my mother saying, "Why won't you blog?" I may just have to change my number.  (Love you mom!) Until next time...

 First day of school pics:

 Miles- first day of kindergarten

 Noah- first day of first grade

 Sadie- first day of fourth grade

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