April 26, 2013

Moms Need Grace Too

I’m not gonna lie- there are times in my life where I feel the need to be perfect weighing on me like a million ton weight. The first 6 days that our new foster blessing were here, was one of those periods of time.

When I gave birth to my two children and then adopted the third, I knew that when I got them in my arms that they were going to be with me (God willing) until they were adults. And then I would send them care packages in college and then babysit the grandchildren and take the grandchildren with us on vacations and have family holidays with them from now until forever. Basically, I knew that I’d have their whole lives to influence them and teach them and guide them.
But this? Oh foster care is tricky. I got a call on a random Tuesday afternoon asking if we would take this sweet child and then an hour later, she arrived with a social worker and moved in. We had no idea if she would be with us for a day, or a week or a year. And we still don’t. That’s just the nature of it. (And just to fill you in- we are not allowed to talk about her on a forum like this- so ,for now ,this entire foster care journey will be all about my reaction and my kids’ reactions instead of any specifics)

All the things that I thought would be issues, turned out to not be issues. Funny how that happens.

But the one thing that I didn’t count on happening was that my “sporadic perfectionist syndrome” (yes, I just made that up) totally reared it’s ugly head.

I took one look at that beautiful child. We knew none of her story. But, let’s face it- no one comes into foster care if their life is a fairy tale. I instantly felt this very weird compulsion to pack in 18 years of life lessons into every single day. Since we had no idea how long she’d be with us, I had this unsettling desire to teach her everything she ever needed to know about functioning in a family, in the hopes that when she went home that she could draw from those skills.
Y’all. It was exhausting.

On a typical day, my kids fight and bicker and get on each other’s nerves about… well, every hour of every day. They are siblings. That’s what siblings do. And in my home, the kids know the appropriate ways to deal with conflict, even if they don’t always use them. So normally, I have no problem letting them work their own stuff out. A helicopter parent I am not. But when a new child came in, I felt like all these little things would be such teaching opportunities for a child who likely had not seen good conflict resolution modeled. The kids would fight over whose turn it was to do xyz. And I’d step in and say something all super parent-ish like, “What would be the best way to work this out? Would that be fair? How will that make your brother feel. Blah, blah, blah.”
And I’d spend all kinds of time making these very balanced meals, with the USDA (or whoever makes up the guidelines) recommended daily allowances. Because, again, what if I only had a day or week to show this kid what good nutrition looks like?

And maybe I should show you how to wash your clothes! And tell you 45 times a day how important school is! And what a joy reading is! And let me write a note in your lunchbox using alternating brightly colored markers so that when you are a mom making lunches for your kids, you will remember that it made you feel good to get a sweet, little note in your lunchbox! And let me remind you all the time that in our family, we don’t make fun of each other or call each other hurtful things. And let me make sure and create opportunities to tell you that you are special and beautiful and safe. And let me show you how a lady should dress. And let me talk to you about boys. And let me teach you about how we don’t hit/hurt/cuss at each other. And …and…and…

Mad props to those moms who are Mary Effing Poppins every single day. But, you guys, it about did me in. Not to mention that in the first week of foster care there are about a zillion meetings and appointments and by day 6 …I was running ragged. Monday was my 32nd birthday and I spent a lot of it in a state of crying and exhaustion. It was just too much pressure for me. And the weirdest things was- it was all pressure that I put on myself. I think that it hit me like a ton of bricks that the very nature of foster care is that it’s all up in the air and you just do the best you can in the time that you are given. It’s something that I should have known all along, but it’s just not possible to cram 18 years worth of life lessons in a week and trying like hell to do it, doesn’t do anything but nearly kill the mama.

So, on my birthday as I was bawling on the phone to a friend about how I was so stressed, it was in that moment, I realized that living like this was in no way real life or sustainable. I think the exact words I used with my husband were, “I think that in my natural state of being, I am not a very nice person. And trying to fight that and be perfect is wearing me out!”

Needless to say that after my epiphany on Monday, we are back to doing stuff like eating frozen waffles sometimes for dinner, and wearing the same pair of socks two days in a row because I forgot to put the clothes in the dryer, and letting the kids problem solve their way out of their own fights.

This suits me so much better. While it might not be 18 years worth of lessons for this child, my hope is that she’ll feel loved and see that there is love in our home. And that here, kids are cherished, and safe and treated with respect. And she’ll know what that looks like when she goes back home. (It is the sincerest desire of my heart to see her go back home to a healthy and whole family- whenever that may be)

I can’t tell you how good it felt to tell that Mary Poppins version of myself that she was not welcome here any more. I like this flawed version of myself much better- even if she doesn’t keep the house as clean or cook as well or use her best handwriting to write the lunchbox notes. I spent the better part of a year preparing myself for how much grace the children placed in our home would need and how much grace my children would need as they adjusted to being a foster family. Somewhere in the middle of that, I forgot that I needed to give myself grace as well- grace to just be myself, and not the mom that I feel like I should be in my head. That woman in my head may look great on the outside with her vegetables on the table and her clean clothes in the drawers and her vacuumed rugs and her children all clean and smiling in the pew on Sunday morning. But the woman that I actually am? She loves children well. And it finally occurred to me that in this instance, the children coming here to live for a season need to the mom who loves well more than anything.

April 19, 2013

A tiny break

So sorry for the long silence.  Earlier this week, a precious, 8 year old foster blessing knocked on our door.  Foster care is something you never wish for for a child, but we are honored to be a part of helping this adorable kiddo through a tough time.  This girl is amazing and so deserving of our time and attention as we get to know her and transition her into our family for this season.  Caring for the needs (and there are many!) of the kiddos in our home right now seems way more important than blogging about it!  I do have to say, though, that this is my favorite kind of chaos and everyone is doing very well :-)

Thanks for your understanding as I take a little break!
-Megan

April 11, 2013

Cry Freedom

I try really hard to be a positive person.  I don't like to be a whiner- unless I'm talking to my mom (sorry Mom) or my friend ,Ellen (sorry, Ellen)- then the whining just runs out of me.

I'm also not a whiner because about 96% of the time, I recognize that I am so blessed and complaining seems selfish.  But mostly, I don't like to whine and complain because I find it kind of annoying in other people. Especially my kids.

All that being said- I'm still in a whiny mood.  This is the fourth day in a row of this foul mood and I'm starting to drive everyone around me nuts.  This weird thing happens to me during "raffle season".  For the few weeks every year that I run the raffle, I walk around in this ethereal state of la-la-ness.  I will call it Drew Barrymore syndrome.  You know- where everything is just so "magical" and beautiful and lovely?  I walk around and marvel at the goodness of people and their willingness to support others.  It's almost like someone injects me with this sickeningly sweet stuff that just oozes out in annoying increments.

During this time, my kids get away with everything.  "Mom?  Can we have ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner?" they say.  And the Drew Barrymore syndrome comes out and I'm all, "Oh yes!  How lucky are we that we have a refrigerator to keep our food cold!  Yes, kids!  Let's all have ice cream for breakfast and marvel at how awesome it is that God thought to make cows who make milk and then someone thought to mix that will salt and sugar to give us ice cream."  Do you see how this is equally as annoying as complaining? 

The sickening sweet carried over into everything.  When one of the kids talked non-stop for three days and asked every single freaking question imaginable, I just looked at him and though, "Wow!  This is our child who was in speech therapy for so long and I wondered if he would ever talk like this.  What a miracle!"

And then the raffle was over, and I'm not gonna lie- every single one of those sweet feelings were over with it... I'm now on day four of the great funk of 2013.

Before the great funk hit, things were just so great it was ridiculous. Last week was spring break.  We had so much fun. We hung out with 75% of the grandparents and went to the zoo, and played on the land, and went to the movies, and took an art class and all other fun kinds of things.  And then Monday came and the kids went back to school and I had two and a half hours with no children in the house.  I looked around and thought, "Holy crap!  Those people are a whole lot of work.  And even though they are wonderful kids- they suck me completely dry.  It's actually kind of nice when they are gone.  This is quiet!  And clean ! And no one is going to mess it up!  And no one needs a snack!  And no one is unfolding clothes faster than I can fold them!"  (Go ahead, judge me.  I don't care.  I LOVE having a break.)

And then the bus came around and dropped them off.  And the chaos came back.  And my perpetual three week long good mood went right out the window.  Now when they ask for ice cream I kind of want to look at them cross eyed and ask them if they've lost their brains (yeah, I get it.  Inconsistent parenting, blah, blah, blah.) And when that same kid kept asking questions all the livelong day?  I kind of wanted to permanently attach my noise cancelling headphones to my ears and never ever take them off.  Either that or figure out a way to shut his mouth- kind of like when Bugs Bunny gets mad at Donald Duck and knocks his beak backwards.  Surely the beak doesn't work when it's backwards?

I don't know what it is about getting a couple of hours of freedom.  It's like crack for me. (my husband likes to remind me that since I've never used crack this is a weird expression for me to use, but whatever. Maybe I should say it's like Diet Pepsi for me) So- crack /Diet Pepsi freedom.  I get a little and I just want more.  Sometimes I think it's almost worse to get a small break because it just wrecks you for re-entry. Can I get an amen? Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade my kids for the world, but there are some seasons of life (like today) where I would give my middle toe to have a week at a cabin in the woods with nothing but my bathrobe and my laptop and a bottle of wine.  There would be no bras allowed.

That's the other thing you should know about me.  I hate to wear a bra.  It's the first thing that comes off when I walk into my home.  If you knock on my door and I'm not expecting you, I will great you free boobed at the door.  Perhaps part of my bad mood has stemmed from the fact that we were so on the go over spring break that I spent too much time in my bra. 

I have a whole other list of complaints happening over here and I may as well just get them out of the way and move on with life.

...I finally came to terms with the fact that the little girl who we thought we were adopting  is not ever going to come to our home.  We had bought her several things and on Monday, I returned most of them.  It almost undid me.

...I got a giant packet in the mail about our annual foster care review coming up.  It was a painful reminder of how we've been at this for what seems like forever and still have no kids in our home.  We called and signed up for our foster care classes in October of 2011.  It's now 2013 and we still have no kids and have been rejected for over 20 kids listed on national photolistings.  I'm starting to get a complex.

...I'm afraid that my wisdom teeth may be coming in.  I'm waking up with a headache almost every day from clenching my jaw and my mouth feels six sizes too small.  I hate not having dental insurance.

...My computer bit the dust.  The man at the repair shop said that the mother board was shot.   I'm a "writer" with no computer!  AHHHHH!  I'm borrowing my mom's teeny tiny netbook that makes me feel like I have Wreck It Ralph hands typing on this itty bitty keyboard.  And it's very slow.  I'll type a sentence and 30 seconds later it appears on the page.

...We are having a tick problem out on our land.  One of the trees that we cut down must have been infested with ticks and so every time we wander in the woods, we get ticks on us.  Well, not me, because bugs seem to hate me.  I never get bitten by any kinds of bugs.  But my husband is a bug magnet and so each day we have 45 conversations that go exactly like this:
   Him:  Can you look me over for ticks?
   Me:  I don't see any.
   Him:  Look again. They give me the creeps.
   Me:  I don't see any.
   Him:  Can you look again.  I hate ticks.  They give me the heeby jeebies.
   Me:  I don't see any.
   Him: Can you look again.  Ticks really make me nervous.
And this goes on and on and on and oh my gosh if I have to have that conversation again I'm going to scream!

After typing all of this out, I've just decided to stop being in such a bad mood... starting tomorrow.   I know that it starts with gratitude and thankfulness.  I've thought long and hard about this (for at least 3 minutes) and I've decided that the only thing I really feel good about right now is that we've recently switched from margarine to butter after seeing that stupid thing on Facebook about how margarine is only one molecule away from plastic.  I figure plastic probably isn't good to eat so we switched to butter and I really like butter.  Butter is yummy.  Today, I'm focusing on the butter.

Come on, butter!

In case the butter doesn't do it for me- anyone know where I can get an attitude adjustment- STAT?  Yikes!

This post is brought to you by the number 4 (as in 4 days of foulness) and by the letter P (as in PMS)

April 08, 2013

And The Winner Is...

Wow! Wow! Wow!  Do you see that meter up there at the top?  Do you see that is says TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS

Holy moly!  I just can't thank you enough for how you all always rally around these causes year after year.  Every year, as an ulcer and the anxiety set in, I tell my family that I am NEVER going to do this again, and every year we do it any way- because in the back of my mind, I just know that you all are so awesome that you will support it!

To every single one of you who bought tickets, or shared about it on Facebook or Twitter, or prayed over this thing, or just merely tolerated my incessant Facebook posts about it- THANK YOU!  Your donations will make a huge impact to JabuAfrica and the Nutrition Program and Heartline Haiti's Maternity Center

Friday night, my mom and I were writing out all of the tickets.  I know that there probably has to be a better way to do it than to write all 1000+ tickets out by hand, BUT- I had so much fun writing your names and telling my mom all about you.  I found myself saying, "OH!  Their son had brain cancer and he is doing so well now!  He just joined the soccer team!" or "They are leaving for Ethiopia next week to pick up twins!" or "These single moms donating so much are the picture of sacrificial giving!"  It just humbled me- people bought who are fundraising for their own adoptions- yet they gave.  People gave that I don't even know- and who don't know that I will honor your donations like a precious gem.  People gave who said, "This is my entire tithe for the year because I BELIEVE in these organizations."

As I wrote your names, I prayed over your families.  Lest you think that's all saintly- I drank a glass of wine while I prayed, probably negating all the prayers- but nonetheless, your families brought me to my knees with your goodness and generosity.  THANK YOU!

I also have to thank the awesome companies that sponsored this whole thing- Global Resorts (who donated the vacation home) Kissimmee Guest Services (Sea World tickets) and Boggy Creek . Without them, none of this could have happened.  The people at Global Resort Homes were so supportive.  I think that during the last hours, they were refreshing the total constantly, sending encouragement along the way.  They were ecstatic when we shattered that goal!  If you are ever going to Disney, these are the people to call!

So now, the moment you have all been waiting for.  The winner of the 3rd Annual vacation giveaway for Congo/Haiti is...  (I apologize for Noah's gyrating hips.  It's a phase that is going on it's 6th year.)


CONGRATS to the winner! Was it you????


April 07, 2013

A quick update and a tiny little challenge

Friday night, our giant vacation giveaway for Congo/Haiti came to a close at midnight- I have SO much to say about that, but I'll keep it brief today. We finished at $10,920!!!!!!  (I could use at least 10 billion exclamation points!)

On Friday at dinner time, we still had a long way to go.  I began wondering if we'd make that goal!  Y'all are 11th hour donors (and I almost have an ulcer to prove it!) Evidently, a few other people didn't think we'd make it to the goal either.  A sweet friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, went to bed early on Friday night with a conviction in her heart.  She told herself that when she woke up on Saturday morning, she would donate whatever we needed to get to that $10,000. 

Imagine her surprise when she woke up and realized that we had surpassed it by $920!  But the story doesn't end there.  You see, my friend is an accountant and she said that it was really bugging her that the number was not a nice tidy round number so she asked if she could donate $80 to make it an even $11,000.  ELEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!  YOU GUYS- do you even know how much of an impact $11,000 can make for Heartline Haiti and JabuAfrica? 

But the story still doesn't end.  My friend said, "I had been planning on making up the difference and I still want to give.  Here's 500 more dollars."  Oh my word.  That put us at $11,500.  Do you see how this just keeps growing?  I put up a blurb about her goodness on our Facebook page and a few people were so inspired by her goodness that they put up some extra as well to try to get us to an even $12,000.  The goal was to match her $500.  As it stands, we've come up with half. 

This is where you come in...  That original $10,000 was good.  But $12,000 is oh so much better!  We are now only $250 short.  Even though the raffle is over, if any awesome person out there would like to help us get to the goal, the donation button is still working.  As an incentive, if anyone gives the $250 still needed, I will put up your business ad, or blog ad, or an ad to whatever you are selling as a banner across the top of this website for a month.

Anyone want to take me up on it?  Bueller?  Bueller? 

Let's get to $12,000!

April 05, 2013

LAST CALL!







This is so important to our family!  We know how much every dollar matters to these organizations and the people they serve and we really want to be able to hand over $10,000 to them!  The vacation raffle (for a week at a luxury home with it's own pool in ORLANDO, FLORIDA from Global Resorts- only 1.5 miles from the gates of Disney World!) ends tonight at midnight!  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE get your tickets!  We can't do this without you.   

To buy tickets- visit the secure donation site at WEPAY

For All the Details on the Vacation Package (including accomodations, tickets to SeaWorld and more) visit:
Millions of Miles 3rd Annual Vacation Giveaway!

For more info on exactly where every dime from this fundraiser goes and why we do this, please visit this post and this post.

THANKS A MILLION and GOOD LUCK!
The Terry Family

HURRY- YOU ONLY HAVE

April 02, 2013

Hunger




The little girls were all carrying around babies.  Only they weren't dolls.  I couldn't help but think about how those 7-11 year old seemed so much older than my own young daughter.  These girls were babies raising other babies.  The difference between my daughter, home in the US, in frilly dresses with her own room, attending a top notch school could not have been more glaring.

The little 7 year old girls in Kinshasa, DR Congo, were too old. Too old to be wanted by American families.  Too old to be so cute that someone working at the orphanage would want to pick them up and carry them around.  Yet too young to take on the role that they had.  Those young girls were caring for the babies.  They were all around me, little kids packing around even littler kids.  At first, it reminded me of my own little princess, playing family with her dolls- tending to their every need, giving them milk out of a little plastic bottle that magically makes the milk disappear when you turn it upside down.  Only the girls in the orphanage weren't playing.  They were surviving- and doing their best to help the little ones survive too.

I would look at these precious little ones and smile at them.  I hoped that my smile would show them how proud I was of their caring hearts- lovingly making sure the babies weren't left alone on the cracked concrete floor.

But then one of those girls brought the baby that she was holding and handed her to me.  I took the baby from her.  Tiny and bony and burning up with fever.  I looked into the child's face and realized that she wasn't a baby.  I held in my hands a toddler- maybe three years old- and weightless.  She felt the same as my other children did on the days they were born.



Have you ever held a child while they died from starvation? 

It's slow. And painful.  And ugly.  And unnecessary.  And faith shaking.  I held that child.  I knew from her high fever that she likely had malaria. But her body was so small and sick from starvation that she couldn't have fought off a cold, much less a killer like malaria.  She was wrapped up in a plastic bag for a diaper.  Despite the fact that she was not a baby she didn't have enough strength to get anywhere on her own and someone had thought to just wrap her up in plastic.  Like a corpse.

Hungry children.  In every corner of the world.  To most, they don't have faces.  To me, I can still feel that skeletal frame in my arms.  I can still smell that baby girl.  I can still feel her fragile little body. When I close my eyes at night- even three years later, thinking about her reduces me to tears.

We are all guilty of it.  We sit around our tables full of food.  We watch our kids pick at their food and then leave their plates still heaping.  We get exasperated and say things like, "Don't waste your food!  Don't you know there are starving children in the world!?"  And then we give up and throw their plates of food in the garbage, grumbling.

Here's the thing about grumbling.  It does nothing.  Grumbling and moaning to our children who have full bellies does nothing for the children whose stomachs are rumbling and empty. Our complaining doesn't fill them up.  It doesn't give them the energy to run and play and learn and LIVE.  It only makes us feel absolved of the guilt for having so much without even thinking about actually doing something about it.

That little girl... she wasn't my child. And yet, I've thought about her for years.  How much more must it hurt a mother not to be able to feed her child and watch them die a slow death?  I remember several years ago we hit a very bad financial patch.  I worried about how I would pay an outstanding hospital bill, and how I could convince the preschool to take the tuition check 10 days late, and how I would buy my kids Christmas presents.  But food?  We always had plenty to eat.  I never once worried about how I would feed my children.  So I can not even imagine how mothers must feel when there is not enough food to go around.

A couple of years ago, the New York Times wrote an article about how families in Kinshasa, Congo were practicing "the ago old tradition" of alternating which days each child could eat because there wasn't enough to feed all the children every day. (And these are parents who are out working daily)  I can't fathom looking at my hungry child and saying, "I'm sorry sweetie but it's not your day to eat." 

My mother's heart just aches thinking about the impossible decisions we ask other mothers to make.

We decided long ago, that in America, orphanages and institutions were not acceptable for our children.  Yet, we accept this as the norm for every where else in the world. Can I let you in on a little secret?  That mom who can only feed her babies on alternating days?  She loves those kids. And when she gets desperate, she might take her hungry baby to an orphanage hoping that they will be able to feed her.   We can't blame her.  Would we maybe do the same thing when faced with the alternative of watching your beloved baby die a slow, painful death from starvation?

An orphanage?  Is no place for a child.  Orphanage is not a culture.  Orphanages are rampant with abuse.  Orphanages are often corrupt places that traffic children.  Orphanages will sell young girls for sex. Orphanages don't love children like families love children.  Those hungry kids us moms in America like to grumble about when we throw our children's leftovers away, are not castoff children. They are loved, wanted, treasured children who many times had no other options.

That little girl I held sparked a desire in me.  It was years of fueling that spark until I found an organization to partner with that is feeding children in a responsible way.  The Kapanga Feeding program is located in the south eastern part of Congo- my Congolese son's old "stomping ground".  It's an underserved part of the country due to it's remoteness.  They are working to feed the most malnourished children in the region.  It is a place where moms can bring their children to get treatment from extreme hunger.  It is a place where those children can get medical help. It is a place that employs local workers.  They feed the children a vitamin rich peanut paste that helps them pack on weight.  The peanuts are all locally grown, giving farmers in the region a living wage.  They are educating families about nutrition and the needs of children to help them thrive. The program is all Congolese run so that they have complete ownership in the program- with funding from America.

But most importantly, those moms who feel like they have no other option than to take their beloved little ones to an orphanage door, have another option.  The program is bringing hope to families.  The program is helping little children like the little girl that I held that changed me to my core, have a future- so they can be carried around by their moms surrounded by their brothers and sisters.  So they can be strong enough to fight off diseases like malaria.  So they can be strong enough to run and play and be children.  So that they have a chance at life.

The feeding program will receive half of all the money we raise from this year's vacation raffle. It's a program that I believe in.  I put my personal finances there.  The raffle is going so slowly... I urge you to put your grumbling about wasted food to good use.  Grumbling without action is dead.   These kids are counting on us for this program to keep running.


A recent group of children on their first day at the program...

... and the hope that this brings families.



 Donations for Haiti/Congo
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