November 16, 2017

15 Ways To Have a Happy Holiday Season

We have a lot going on in our house.  And with the holidays officially underway next Thursday, I'm feeling the pressure.

I'm trying not to stress.  We have a baby coming in February, so staying healthy is top priority, but with baby prep, sports, job prospects, possible moving logistics, and family drama on top of holiday food planning, schedules, shopping, and decorating, I'm wondering how I'm going to get it all done let alone enjoy it.

I started making a mental list the other day of how I can make this holiday season fun amid the hectic.  Then I started writing it down.  Which turned into a typed list with clip art.  And now this.  A guide, if you will, for those like me - an enigma of sorts.  Someone who feels deeply, but has entered that inevitable phase of life where IDGAF is whispered almost daily.  Someone who pursues perfection but now understands the effort is futile.  Someone who remains hopeful, but will always be a cynic at heart.  Someone who's had enough.


How To Have a Happy Holiday Season

  1. Have NO expectations of others because some people just suck, don't care about your family anyway, or they're the epitome of Scrooge.
  2. Do not ask for help unless absolutely necessary.  I know everyone needs a hand now and then, but seriously, it's not worth it.  You got this.  Figure it out.  Besides, you'll just end up even more disappointed when you realize you broke rule #1.
  3. Do lots of crafts and activities with your kids, and don't stress, glitter makes everything pretty - including the floor, the counter tops, and the dog!  Believe me, I know.
  4. Watch Christmas movies.  Yes, even the cheesy Hallmark ones that will never ever happen in real life.  But, it's nice to long for a small town where you're welcomed with open arms.  
  5. Listen to Christmas music, but, for your own sanity, wait until after Thanksgiving!
  6. Bake and let the kids help!  Remember, broken eggs on the floor will clean up.  Well, not by themselves.  Of course you'll have to do it.
  7. Keep the house tidy.  Every day clutter and Christmas decor will compete and make you crazy.  Don't fret.  You'll put it away eventually.
  8. Wrap early and often!  As fun as it is watching A Christmas Story on repeat throughout the night, Santa needs some sleep.  Your 5am wake up of children pouncing on you Christmas morning will happen before coffee.
  9. Know that you're making memories - both good and bad, so have patience and relax.  Not only is Santa watching, but so are the kids.
  10. The people in your house matter most, so do your own thing for once (everyone is) and enjoy this time.  It won't last forever.
  11. Shop online.  Really, is there any other way?  
  12. Don't waste time trying to please everyone.  It's rarely reciprocated unless you serve a purpose.
  13. Extend an invitation only if you wish, but don't stress trying to accommodate every schedule, tradition, or desire.  It's not your problem.  If you have taken on the role of planner, fixer, do everything-er, QUIT.  
  14. Remember that perfection is a myth.  It's never going to happen, especially during the holidays.  Kids don't care about perfect, and they certainly don't remember perfect.  They just want family time.  And presents.
  15. Start new traditions.  It's never too late!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!




October 26, 2017

Abortion: Through a Child's Eyes

I've been following the story about the illegal immigrant "Jane Doe" who was granted an abortion and subsequently followed through with it on Wednesday.  In addition to the freedom to have an abortion, so much about this case is infuriating - crossing the border illegally, her federally funded stay in the US, her free legal battle, dodging the rules of minors getting abortions, her "on the house" murder of her baby, and all the celebrating afterward.

According to her, having a baby just wasn't part of her illegal stay in the US.

As I read an article on the successful murder of her 16 week baby, little did I know my seven year old was reading along.

"What's abortion?" 

In our house, we speak the truth as age-appropriately as possible.  I don't sugar coat things.  And when my kids ask a question, I answer it.  I sometimes only go to a certain point and let them know this is all I'm going to share for now, or that's all I think they can handle at this time, or that some day we'll revisit the topic with more details.  This time was no different. 

And so I explained.

He sat there for several minutes taking in my explanation.  My son is a beautiful child, and I watched those deep brown eyes behind his long lashes contemplate.  Finally he spoke.

"That's terrible.  Why not have the baby and let someone adopt it?"

Yes, exactly, why not?  

I'm also "fair" when I discuss things with my kids.  I try my best to present the other side of things, BUT, these children belong to me and my husband - not society.  That being said, our explanation of opposing views is a fair presentation, however, they most certainly walk away understanding our values as a family and how and why we believe the way we do.

The abortion topic was quite straightforward (we didn't get into any specifics about immigration - it was irrelevant to his original question).  

She got an abortion because:

  • abortion is legal 
  • she didn't want the baby
  • abortion is a woman's choice

Still baffled, not understanding why she got the abortion, he thought of a few reasons hers were not good ones.  Here's what my seven year old came up with:

  • a baby in your belly is alive
  • why couldn't the dad tell her no
  • aren't there lots of families who would want the baby
Hmm, from the mouths of babes, right!?

You see, my boy has lived through the three miscarriages I had after him, the birth of his brother, the adoption of his sister, and now another pregnancy currently at 25 weeks.  He gets life.  And death.  Joy, sorrow.  The fragility of life.  He's felt babies kicking.  He has seen a beating heart at just eight weeks.  He understands that when a sperm and an egg meet, that a perfect design is happening.  That a growing fetus is functioning.  That the baby growing inside his mama's body can hear, feel, move, and could miraculously survive if she were born right now.

How do you look at a child and say, "to some, a life is inconvenient."  How do you look at your male child and say, "to many women, fathers don't matter."  How do you look at an innocent kid who's trying to figure out life and say, "many people just think it's a blob of cells, mere science, not life."

My son was very bothered by all of this.  That's because it really is simple.  Abortion is terminating a life.  My little seven year old understands the depraved indifference that is abortion.  He understands the value of human life, no matter what stage.  

Oh, guess what happened next?

"Mom, how do you spell 'abortion'?"

This is what he mailed off to the White House this afternoon...


President Trump may never see this, but my boy took a stand, made an effort, and will hopefully make someone think.



May 26, 2017

Our Adoption Story

Three years ago last week, we celebrated the adoption of our little girl!  

Belles, as we affectionately call her, came to us through foster care in another state.  This is our adoption story...

Our six year stay in West Virginia was not what I'd hope for.  Moving there shortly after my husband and I married (second marriage for both of us) was supposed to be our new beginning.  A fresh start.  A home to grow our family.  A place to plant roots.  

I tried.  I really did.  We did everything transplants do - explored, found a church, made friends - but as the years went on, I grew more and more miserable and wanted desperately to move back "home."  The reasons are irrelevant to this blog post, but I say this only to preface our story with "everything happens for a reason" really is true!

When we purchased our home I envisioned filling it with as many kids as we could have before I became to old to have them.  After having one child and two miscarriages, I met a homeschool mom who had a profound impact on our family.  As I got to know her, she shared many stories of her family's foster care, and ultimate adoption, journey.  Derek and I had discussed this idea earlier in our marriage, but put it in the back of our minds, until we met not only my friend, but also a few more foster/adoption families.  And so, my husband, our kids, and I - all on board - began the process through a private agency contracted through DHHR.

Our year long licensing process was met with a lot of waiting, self-reflection, push back from family, and another miscarriage, but finally we were good to go, ready to take in as many kids as we could.  I quickly learned it wasn't that simple, at least not for us - some kids were placed before we returned the affirmative phone call, some we had to decline, and there were simply lulls of waiting.  In addition to the logistics of the process, there was an emotional component.  As much as I wanted to open our home and hearts to other children through fostering and/or adoption, I was faced with unexpected emotions I was not prepared for.  I don't know if it was the negativity from others, fear, my obligation to my kids, or the miscarriages - perhaps all of it, but I felt guilty at times for wanting to do this.  But, our amazing social worker helped me to sort out my feelings and understand they were completely normal!  

Still struggling to fit in and feel at home, I had had enough, and we started seriously talking about moving, but then, we got the call.  

There was a baby girl being removed from kinship care, and we could pick her up the following day.  I said "yes," without hesitation, and without calling Derek.  When I did, he reminded me that we were going to list our house.  Didn't matter, I wanted this more!  

And so the next day, Maddie and I went to pick up our angel. 

This baby was beautiful, mild, and quietly observant.  Maddie brags to this day that she was the first to hold her as I sat going over details with the social worker.  The hour we were in DHHR, waiting and watching people coming and going was sobering.  To realize some were there to relinquish their children, some ordered, some not.  Some were there, like us, to take on the role of mom and dad to someone else's child. Others were there to check in, file complaints, and a number of other reasons. 

We quietly exited the back of the building and strapped our new addition into the car seat hoping to remain unseen by the family who brought her in.  

At home, we welcomed her as our own, and she quickly became one of us - the perfect fit.

As the months went by, it was as if she was never not a part of our family.  Due to her birth family's background, we knew early on she would become "adoptable" after her six month stay in foster care.  To this day, I think about her birth mother - a young woman, mentally ill who quieted her mind with drugs.  Through the grace of God, she managed to carry a baby almost to term and give birth.  She had no idea how to care for her baby because she couldn't even care for herself.  I don't know all the details, but I know enough to know, that our daughter's life was, and is, precious, and she has purpose.  She needed a loving family, and we needed her.  She was obviously meant to be as she was our first and only placement.


Adoption Day
And that is why we ended up in West Virginia.  "Everything happens for a reason."  Yep, cliche, and people usually loathe hearing it, but it's true.  Had we not moved there, we never would have been given this gift.  During the adoption process came our fourth miscarriage and the listing of our house.  Shortly after our court date, our house sold, and we were free to leave.  And so we did. 

Minus the "mild," our Annabelle is still beautiful and quietly observant.  She's "a mess."  Ironically enough, she looks like our other kids, and with the exception of being the best sleeper ever from the moment we got her, has a similar personality to each.  She's naturally loud, quirky, clumsy, and imaginative.  She loves cereal, pancakes, and chocolate crackers.  She's stubborn, has a temper, and can squish her face in a hot second.  She is thoughtful, loving, and funny.  She loves to sing, color, and watch TV.  She loves God, princesses, pink, and stuffed animals.  She is a typical little girl - at each age and stage, she's been on point.  I refuse to blame an outburst, an odd behavior, or an attitude on "the drugs" or her birth mom's illness.  Of course, I remain aware, but a four year old temper tantrum is just that.  She has two parents, four siblings, and family who love her as their own flesh and blood.    

I'm her mom.  We're her family, and that's what she knows.  How we got her - which sounds strange to say, but we did, we got her from somewhere that was not my own body - is not a secret, so the plan is to let her understand her beginning naturally.  My only regret is that we do not have a newborn or early baby pictures of her.  As I continue to adorn our walls with photos, I'm going to have to answer "where's mine?"  And that, breaks my heart.

Annabelle is a blessing.  A little spitfire that drives me to the brink of insanity some days.  Every day with her is an adventure.  But when I tuck her in at night, say prayers, and sing our special song, she wraps her arms around my neck and says, "I love you, momma," I know she's right where she belongs.  

I love her with all my heart.

    




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