Monday, October 25, 2010

Emma's adoption story

Tonight at bedtime, Emma was a chatterbox. That is nothing new. But her conversation certainly was.

Let me back up just a bit... Luke was having a really rough night. Tears and drama and you don't love mes and I'm the worst boy evers and on and on.... I really have no idea where this drama comes from. They were told it was time to put their toys away. They didn't; so they didn't get a bedtime snack or story.

Emma compliantly (for once) brushed her teeth and got ready for bed. Luke started with the no one loves me drama. We try to stay calm when he does that; getting worked up does nothing for the attitude around here. So while he was screaming his head off about no one loving him and why don't we just give him away and he is the worst boy ever, we just calmly said things like - "We love you so much. Forever and ever. We are never getting rid of you. There is nothing you could do to make us love you any less. We always love you no matter what."

On a side note - I honestly have no idea if this is a 7 year old thing or if this is an adoption "side effect". He has had a lot of questions about his birthmother and his past lately. I think he is still trying to figure out how we will never give him up if she did....

Anyway. After we calmed him down - it only took about 30 minutes this time - we all prayed together as a family, just as we always do. Joe went to tuck in Luke and I stayed with Emma.

And here is what she said to me:

Mommy, you are the best mother ever. When I was in Guatemala, I COULDN'T STAND IT! (Yes, she emphasized those words.) I needed a mother. I thought I was going to lay there forever. And then the next day, you came, and I said "Oh good. Finally. A mother." And you said, "Oh good. A baby." But then you had to leave. And the next day you came back after you were crying and said "I went to a different state to adopt a baby named Luke but now I am back to adopt a baby named Emma." And Luke needed a mother and I needed a mother and then you came and now you are the best mother ever. Do you want to snuggle?

And that's the way it happened. According to Emma and her 4 year old wisdom :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The best book ever. And I mean ever.

I was a little stressed out about my parenting skills last night. I started looking through my parenting books that I have collected. Books always save the day. I mean, I just open one up and it tells me what to do. 9 times out of 10, it doesn't work with my dirty little sinners - or I fall short and blow the parenting principles. But I feel better as I'm reading it. I always find hope and strength and courage and great parenting skills and all that feel good stuff.

I've read a lot of good books over the years. The Connected Child. Have a New Kid by Friday. The Adopted Child in School. 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child. Shepherding a Child's Heart. Just don't ask me what any of them say. I might have - um - forgotten by the time I put the book back on my shelf. Maybe I'm a slow learner. Or maybe real life gets in the way of these lofty ideas.

So anyway. Last night. One title on my shelf caught my eye - one that I haven't read before. Maybe it was a gift. Maybe I bought it. It is just a small little book with a catchy title sitting there between the rest.

"The Hair Raising Joys of Raising Boys". I've had some hair-raisers lately so I picked it up. I blew through 50 pages in no time and I was hysterical the whole time. I needed that!

The prologue says: "Please skip the prologue and go directly to chapter 1....If you are still reading by now, clearly you have the same problem my boys have in following directions. The VERY FIRST sentence in the prologue explicitly said to skip this section and go to chapter 1. Was there something terribly unclear about that? Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get my boys to follow extremely simple instructions only to have adults, such as yourself, providing such a poor example? .... How do you hope to successfully raise boys when you, personally, cannot even obey a simple directive?"

Hysterical! Here's another. "Very few authors will attempt to sell you a book titled: Raising Boys - Face It, You're Doomed! But because I accept Biblical prohibition against deceiving others, that is exactly what I titled this book until my uptight editor demanded a more chipper, upbeat title."

One paragraph later:
"Now, what do we mean by 'you're doomed'? .... You will be tucking one of them into bed, for example, and talking to him about his class field trip to the museum tomorrow when you suddenly discover that this kid's face is absolutely filthy and he just finished his bath 20 minutes ago! And you'll ask what in the WORLD did he do between the bathroom and his bedroom and he will reply, "Nothing!" which is what they ALWAYS say, and you will finally discover that he has a package of Jell-O Dutch Chocolate Pudding Mix under his pillow and he has been eating the powder with his hands and now you have to wash all the sheets and he needs another bath because he is a boy and you are doomed. Get used to it.

When I say that you are doomed, I do not at all mean to imply that your boy has a high propensity to become a dropout or a felon or a senior White House advisor. In fact, you will notice that I have never even hinted that your boy will be anything other than a good and noble young man who will marry a very wonderful woman and have a challenging and productive career and teach Sunday school and give you wonderful grandchildren. I never said your kid is doomed. I said you are."

And on and on with the hysterics. Certainly lightened my mood. Can't wait to read the remaining 125 pages. This might just be the one that I keep on the coffee table :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Purging is good for the soul

Got an e-mail from Luke's teacher. He has been acting up and his grades are slipping. Ugh. Pair that with his behavior this past weekend and it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that something is bothering him.

I know that outward behavior is an indicator of an inward condition. But I can't for the life of me figure out what his condition might be. Nothing has changed around here lately. Does he flashback to his past? Is someone picking on him at school? Is he thinking about his birthmother? Is he just being 7? Is he not getting enough run-around-and-just-be-a-boy time? Is he being tempted by the enemy? The list could go on....

Point being, I have no idea what it could be. And Luke isn't one to talk about what he is feeling - instead he will just act up. Examples of that are overwhelming right now!

And so when I am feeling overwhelmed and out of control, I purge. Joe is lucky it isn't the family room furniture because I have been threatening to get rid of that... :) Instead, my closet got a makeover.

I tried on every piece of clothing this morning. Unless it is something I wear often and know it fits. Oh my. What I found was good comical relief on my tired brain.

I haven't lost weight lately - or ever. I've gained a few pounds as I have aged, but I haven't really changed sizes. So why were some sweaters so big? Did I really look in the mirror and think that looked nice on me at one point?

How many guy shirts can I have? I mean seriously. Do button-down shirts or polos look good on me? No. A more feminine touch looks much better.

Some shirts were too short. I haven't grown taller - did I like to let my belly hang out? Not that I remember - but there was my belly, smiling at me in the mirror. Oh good grief.

High waisted pants? Yep. Yuck. Pants that were too short? Oh my yes.

What was I thinking when I bought all this stuff? I'm sure it was on the sale rack. Sometimes I buy it just because it is on sale and I think I can make it work. Lesson learned.

Now I have a lot of empty hangers - and a big mess piled up on my bed. At least maybe now I can look in my closet and actually find something to wear. Many times I'd look in there and get overwhelmed with all the stuff I didn't wear.

Yes - I get overwhelmed a lot with things in my life :)

Back to reality. The break sure was nice. Time to shower, pull myself together and put on a smokin' hot outfit. And then I'll deal with trying to figure out Luke. But at least I'll look good :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

This training up stuff would be so easy if they weren't sinners!!

I have already failed at my new-found parenting techniques.

Saturday night. "Time to put your toys away and get ready for bed" Joe says to the kids. They are suddenly deaf. Emma doesn't even flinch and Luke starts dancing around singing some crazy song.

Remembering Dr. Leman's words that you talk to a child in the way you expect them to act, I say, "I know you guys know how to be good listeners, let's show daddy what good listeners you can be by putting your toys away right now!"

Luke rolls his eyes and goes back to singing. Emma is still completely deaf.

I try Dr. Leman technique #2. Walk away. When the dirty little sinners act up, you are supposed to walk away. When they don't listen and obey, they don't get what they ask for either. So I had it in my mind that when they would ask for a bedtime snack and story, the answer would be no.

I walked away.

The toys do not put themselves away and by now it is turning into chaos. They think they have scored a victory - and I think I am ready to hit the ceiling.

I can't stay calm anymore. I get a garbage bag. A big one. I say, "Well if you are not going to clean up, I will. Say goodbye to your toys that you're not putting away." I start putting things in my bag.

Luke starts to cry. "Well I guess I'll never play with any of my toys ever again. EVER again. I'll just sit on a chair all day and do nothing. NOTHING!" Reality check: he didn't have all of his toys out - only a few. You still have some in your room, kid! How about playing with those tomorrow? Nope. Drama.

Emma has the nerve to say, "Hey mommy, if you're throwing toys away, how about this one too?" She goes to her room and brings me something. "I don't think I want this one anymore anyway."

Push. My. Buttons!!!!

Where's the chapter on this in my parenting book? I know it has to be there somewhere.... I can't find it. Nuts.

They finally calm down and beg for a second chance. Good, I think. Great lesson here. God always gives second chances so we will too. I tell them, 'It is time for bed now, but if you put your toys away first thing in the morning, I will not throw them away.'

The next morning, I am in the shower. Emma sticks her head in the bathroom to tell me good morning. Before I am out of the shower she pokes her head back in and says, "We are all done, mommy. I even woke up Luke and all of his toys are put away too." Luke then chimes in, "And our beds are made!"

Beautiful. We even made it to church on time - early even. Minor miracle. We are headed for a good day.

Not so fast.... Bad decisions and lying are the theme of the day. One after another after another. Are you kidding me??? With each one, we think we are out of the water. Apology, a promise to never ever lie again. Sincere repentance. Then another lie within the hour.


What should I expect, though? I mean really. The very first human beings struggled with this very behavior. Amy's new living translation to follow :)

"Don't do that."
"What did you do?"
"I already know what you did, do you want to tell the truth now?"
"It wasn't me, it was her!"

Is this Adam and God - or me and my kids??? It's hard to tell.

The sermon in church yesterday was about Moses and the 10 commandments. The Israelites were dirty little sinners too. More of Amy's new living translation:

Moses: "Hey everyone, God gave me these cool commandments."
People: "Oh awesome! We can do what God says. Afterall, he just took us through the Red Sea and delivered us from Egypt. God rocks!"
Moses: "I'm going to go up on the mountain and talk to God for a bit. Be good!"
People: "Okay, we will. Listening to God is the best thing!"

A little while later...
People: "Hey, let's make a golden cow and worship it."
Other people: "Holy cow! You are so awesome!" (Just realized I said holy cow! HA! Wonder if that's where the saying comes from??)

A little while later...
Moses: "What are you doing? One of the 10 commandments was 'No other gods.' What is wrong with you people?"

Who knows what the people said - I think he heard a bunch of excuses like:
"Well we got bored and had nothing else to do."
"The statue acidentally made itself." (Just like the rocks accidentally throw themselves around here.)
"It wasn't me."
"What statue?"

Sigh.... I don't know why I expect my kids to be any different than Adam, the Israelites - or me. We are all dirty little sinners. God must be in a constant stage of frustration with all of us.

I can only hope that as we do our best to train our dirty little sinners UP that they begin to WANT to make good decisions. That they begin to let God work in them and through them. That they want to do the right thing, even if they find themselves "doing things I don't want to do" - as Paul said in the New Testament.

Thank God the blood of Jesus covers our sins. Thank God the Holy Spirit makes us want to turn from our sins. Praise God for His forgiveness and mercy.

Thank God for second chances. And third chances - and 200th chances. Unfortunately, we all need them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Train UP a child

I started a new parenting study with some other moms this morning. We are doing "Value-Packed Parenting" by Kevin Leman. So far, so good. I really enjoy reading his books and I think his advice is fantastic.

The chapter revolved around the verse from Proverbs 22:6 - "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

I have heard this verse a million times - and I always focus on the old part. If I set the groundwork now, they will be okay when they are old. I guess I don't give them enough credit in the short-term. ha.

But Dr. Leman picked this verse apart and one of the words he focused on was 'up'. He reminded us that the verse doesn't say - "train your child down" and yet so many of us do.

"How many times do I have to tell you...."
"That's it, you're grounded."
"I am sick of this attitude!"

I wish I could say that I never speak like this to my kids, but I am guilty. In the heat of the moment, I say things I regret. There literally are some days, though, where I have said the same things a million times over.... It is exhausting some days for sure!

His point was well taken. It's about relationships. Not about nagging or getting frustrated or throwing insults. If I want my kids to WANT to hang out with me later in life, I've got to build the relationship now. I've got to treat my kids in the way I expect them to behave - and they will. Or so he says :)

So instead of "how many times have I told you to put your toys away", I should be their cheerleader and switch my attitude to: "I know you have done a great job putting your toys away before. I can't wait to see you do a good job again today!" And then really praise their good efforts and good choices.

Sounds so simple. Like one of those things I knew I'd get right as a parent - before I was a parent. But being a parent is more exhausting than I ever thought. I might have a positive attitude the first 20 times, but 21 breaks me down. Some days the 3rd time breaks me down.

But it does all come back to me. The kids are watching my attitude. My self control. My kindness. My efforts and choices.

What pressure!!!

Look out new attitude, here I come. Hopefully that attitude will stick around - even for the 30th time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A bit of advice

While Emma was making her peanut butter sandwich for lunch today, she said, "Mommy. Wisten to me. Wook at me when I say this. This is very important. When you are making a peanut butter sandwich, never ever swing the knife around by someone's neck because you might cut their head off."

Never mind the fact that it was just a butter knife - and after she shared her profound thoughts, she licked the knife.

I guess tongues aren't as important as heads :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

The scariest day ever

We all went to the grocery store yesterday. Something we rarely do together. We were at the checkout. I was unloading the grocery cart and was waiting to pay and Joe was loading the packed groceries back into the cart. Luke wandered over to the stuffed-animal-claw-grabbing game. It was not even 10 feet from us.

I looked up and saw him standing there. I looked again and he was gone.

"Where's Luke?" I say to Joe. "He's over there" he answered as he turned and realized he wasn't there. I went running out to where the pop machines and carts are. No Luke. I ran out into the parking lot, screaming. "Luke! Luke!" No Luke.

I ran back into the store. "Is he in here?" I screamed. Joe said, "No!" I ran back out to the parking lot. No cars pulling out of the lot. No sight of Luke. I scream for him some more. Nothing.

I'm sure it was only a few seconds but it seemed like decades.

"MOMMY!" I finally hear. "LUKE!" He came running towards me, in hysterics. Jumps into my arms. "Luke, where were you?" "Mommy, I thought that guy was daddy and I followed him out. I didn't know it wasn't daddy. When I saw it wasn't daddy, I ran but I couldn't find you."

The guy behind him was some guy that goes to our church and has kids in Luke's school. We had run into him in the cereal aisle. Don't know each others' names but we recognized each other enough to carry on a one minute conversation while buying cereal.

The guy said, "I knew he was yours and I saw him running through the parking lot in traffic and I didn't want him to get hurt. I was yelling for him to stop but he wouldn't stop."

Luke could barely breathe. Me either. I thank the guy and carry Luke into the store. The cashier is standing there waiting for me to pay - and everyone was staring at me like I was a nutjob. I'm sure Joe was right behind me - but I can't remember. Isn't that strange?? I can remember the look on the cashier's face but I can't remember where my husband or daughter were while I was screaming for Luke.

Still in my arms as I was swiping my credit card, Luke said, "I think that guy was trying to take me. He kept yelling stop but I wouldn't stop, mommy, I wouldn't stop. I just wanted to find you but I couldn't. So I ran."

I said, "I think that guy was a helper and not a taker." Luke wasn't so sure. I can't be 100% sure either I guess. You just never know.

Thank God he was okay. THANK GOD!!!!!

I can't believe how fast it all happened. We had our backs turned for a second - and he was 10 feet away from us. For people who want to take kids, they would probably only need a second.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Finally. The birth mother conversation.

Luke has been home for 4 years and 8 months. He'll be 8 in January. He hasn't been interested in his past. He never asks questions and doesn't want to talk about it. We have always been open and honest with his adoption story. We have always said that he was born in Russia. He knows he was 3 when he came home (not sure how much he remembers himself). But when we start talking about it in depth, he will change the subject.

Shortly after coming home, he wouldn't even admit that he was from Russia. He would look at the photo albums we put together and he would rip the pages.

As time went on, he'd admit that he was from Russia but he would rather focus on the fact that he didn't have a family and neither did we - so God brought us together. He did tell us that he remembered that we came to visit him in the orphanage and then we left and he wondered if we were really coming back. So he'd cry every day. Heartbreaking. Of course we also cried every day while we were waiting for the powers-that-be to work out all the adoption paperwork or whatever they were doing. And we always tell him that.

A few months ago we were reading the Mr. Rodgers book about adoption. There is a page that says something like - adoption doesn't happen because of anything the child did. The birthmother had grown up problems and she couldn't take care of a child. He said, "Huh. I always thought it was me!" I was surprised he had a comment, so we talked about it. The conversation didn't last very long - because there was a picture of a black boy and he said, "Black boys are cool. Can we adopt a black boy so he can be my brother?" I didn't want to force anymore conversation if he didn't want to talk about it anymore. So I let it go.

He hasn't asked any questions since. Until last night.

We were reading the story of Moses. Interesting perspective from the birth mother's perspective. She tried to keep him for 3 months and then couldn't. She put him in the basket in the river. The princess found him and adopted him.

Luke immediately picked up on this and said, "Do you think the birthmother was sad?" I said, "I do." He said, "Do you think my birthmother was sad?" I had to stop for a minute and think about what to say. I don't want to fabricate any story. I have no idea if she was or not. I never got to talk with her - and the court papers don't paint a pretty picture. So I honestly have no idea what she was thinking or feeling. So I said, "I don't know how she was feeling. I never got to talk with her. I only know how I would be feeling - and yes, I would be really sad."

He then asked if he was put in a river. I reminded him he was put in an orphanage.

He then asked a really loaded question. "Well if she gave me up, how do I know you and daddy will never give me up?" and he started to cry.

I have always wondered if kids who were adopted think this way. I told him that she had grown up problems and she couldn't take care of a child. But daddy and I can take care of children. God knew all that and that is why he brought us together. And that is why we will be a family forever. I reminded him that it is nothing that he did. And that there is nothing he can do that will not make us a family anymore.

Hard question!!

He then asked who was his real mother. Me? Or the birthmother? I assured him I was his real mother and that it is my job to take care of him now. He wanted to know why I couldn't be his birthmother too.

Then he wanted to know if everyone has a birthmother. I told him we all do. "Even Emma?" he asked. I said, "Yes, Emma has a birthmother in Guatemala." "How come some birthmothers can take care of children? What if my friend's birthmother decide to give him up? Where will he go?" (We just had a friend who had a baby so this is all fresh in his mind.) I told him that they were able to care for a baby and he isn't going to be given up. "Well how do the babies come out of the birthmothers?"

Oh good grief!!!! "The birthmother goes to the hospital and the doctor takes the baby out."

That sastified his question. Whew.

Then he got really lovey and cuddly. I told him I don't understand it all, and I wish I could've been his birthmother too - but that God has good plans for all of us. And we are now a family. Forever.

Emma heard all this too - but had very few questions. She just said, "You're my best friend and my mommy and I love you."

Funny - I always thought it would be the other way around. I thought she'd have a million questions and Luke wouldn't.

This morning when I woke Luke up for school, I said, "I've been thinking about our birthmother conversation." He said, "Me too." I said, "I just want to make sure that you understand that it was nothing you did." He said, "I know." I said, "We are together forever." He said, "I know." I said, "I love you!" He said, "I love you too!"

Then he got quiet. He was really thinking heavy thoughts, I could tell. I let him think for a few moments.

Then I said, "Honey, what are you thinking about?"

Luke: "Pizza."
Me: "Pizza?"
Luke: "Yep, pizza. Yum."

He's going to make a great husband someday :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

A real live ballerina

Emma has started ballet lessons. It is too cute to watch! She told my mom that she is now a real live ballerina and my mom said, "You mean for Halloween?" Emma was mortified. ha.

She's only had 2 lessons so far, but she loves it. She keeps asking when she will go on stage. I think we have a while to go :)

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