Tonsils. Who Needs Them??

Update: The New Kid has to have his tonsils removed. This is new territory for me. #1) I’ve never had a foster kiddo who had to have surgery and #2) I’ve never had a kid that had to have a tonsillectomy. So.

I’m not really nervous about the surgery itself. A quick google search told me that just over half a million of these procedures are done each year. The doctor who will be performing the procedure seems very qualified. The New Kid will be in and out within 30 minutes. No biggie, right??

What I’m worried about is the week following his surgery. This kid is going to need A LOT of extra care. And although he is hilarious and we are really growing to love him, he is still just a few weeks post “complete-stranger” status. It’s a little intimidating to know that I’ll be responsible for this child as he goes through what will quite possibly be the most excruciating few days of his short little life and we are still just getting to know one another.

This reminds me of a few years ago when my then-foster-child-now-son had a stomach bug. I had a vicious case of the “am I doing it rights?” and second guessed myself in a bad way. Turns out, I was doing just fine all along. Re-reading my own words reminds me that I can do this!!

Prayers and good vibes appreciated for The New Kid. 

1/22/13

No one likes to be sick. It’s the pits. You’re weak and achy and tired. You don’t feel like eating or reading or even really talking. Even worse than being sick though is having a sick kiddo. It’s heartbreaking. You wish you could be sick in their place; somehow take the illness away from them. They’re so fragile. They’re weak and achy and tired. They don’t feel like eating or reading or even really talking. But what seems almost universally soothing to pretty much every sick child is snuggling. That wild, energetic ball of energy who rarely slows down for a quick hug seems to want nothing more than to climb in to your lap, cuddle up under a blanket, and just be. Comfort. I get a guilty satisfaction for being the giver of this comfort. I genuinely don’t want my sweet one to feel bad but I will SOAK THIS UP!!!!! This is a momma’s time to shine: to nurture and care for and to….mother. I mean, I still want MY mom when I’m sick. Which makes me wonder, does our little addition want his mom right now even more than normal? Does his weak, fragile state cause him to recall how her lap felt, how she rubbed his back or touched his face? Did she feed him 7-Up and crackers or popsicles or broth to soothe his sick belly? AM I DOING IT RIGHT?!?! Or does it really matter? Soup or 7-Up, back rub or back scratch…as long as it’s done with love I’ve found that he will gratefully accept my attempts to help and he even seems to be comforted by them. Apparently my lap snuggles just fine.

Minutes Matter

Minutes are weird. Every single one is made the same way. Sixty seconds. No single minute is longer or shorter than another. However, some minutes seem to fly by while others drag on for what seems like forever. 

My goal for the year is to be better at being still. It’s an art form that, frankly, I suck at. I’m a go-er and a do-er. I can multi-task like a boss. I can do a lot of things well. The challenge for me is in being still and quiet. 

Because my family is precious and supports me in my goals (translation: I said, “hey guys, we are doing this new thing, ok?”), we are working on this “be still” thing together. In the evening-time we practice being still. We call it Quiet Time (brilliant, huh?).  

In January, we would be still and quiet for 30 seconds each evening. In February, we increased it to one minute nightly. The plan is to increase it by 30 second intervals each month. No rules during quiet time except, you know, be quiet. You can pray or think about your day or sing a song in your head. 

I know, I know. It sounds cheesy and kind of weird. For the record, it also FEELS cheesy and kind of weird. I’m pretty sure that’s because we aren’t good at it yet. 

You guys, a minute lasts FOREVER. I bet I peek at the timer a dozen times during that minute, convinced that the battery has finally, really died this time. I feel like, in that single minute, I could plan my grocery list, fold a load of clothes, scrub a toilet or two, and paint my toenails. Maybe even solve global hunger. Who knows?? 

Fun fact about me: I am less than punctual. As in ALWAYS late. I generally wake up late and that just sets the tone for the day. I no longer get frazzled by it, it’s just my life. I’ve noticed though, that those pesky minutes seem to zoom by when I’m running late. I run out the door and blink and all of a sudden it’s time for the appointment/job/pick up time. Like, wait. What?! Where the heck did THOSE minutes go???

Whether I’m racing the clock or watching it tick slowly by, I’m learning that the minutes matter. The fast, speedy ones and the slow, crawly ones. Every single one matters. They all mush and glob together and turn into hours and those hours melt into days that turn into weeks and then months and then years. And then you’re sitting there, almost 35 years old, thinking, “crap, I’ve wasted so many minutes.”

I’m trying to make my minutes matter. Being still in some and being calm and kind in others. Being passionate. Being angry when I need to. Just being deliberate and mindful that although minutes seem to be somewhat insignificant, they’re actually what it’s all about. 

Minutes matter. Let’s make them count. 

Hi, I’m the new kid

When The New Kid came to us, I was the only one home. My husband was at work and the big kids were at school. The case worker and I chatted a bit, then she left, and it was just him and me. I gave him a tour of the house. I showed him where the bathrooms are. We checked out the toy box together and a Lightening McQueen computer caught his eye. He asked who it belonged to. I told him that it is Caleb’s but that many kids have played with it over the years. He opened the red laptop, turned it on, and said, “Hi, I’m the new kid.” Since we cannot identify our bonus kiddos by their name on social media, I’ll be referring to our latest addition as The New Kid from now on. Seems fitting. 

The New Kid is almost 4. Just about the same age as our Caleb when we first met him. They have striking similarities. It sometimes feels like deja vu. The New Kid is often quiet, seemingly in his own world. He is, in fact, taking it ALL in. I remember Caleb acting the same way. You’d talk to him and think he wasn’t listening but when you’d question, he knew exactly what was going on. 

In an effort to gain some insight as to what might be going on inside The New Kid’s mind, I recently asked Caleb what he remembers from when he first came to live with us. He said, “I remember thinking, ‘Who are these people? That is not my mom and that is not my dad.’ And I was afraid.” His words made me lose my breath and my eyes got misty. We meet these kids when their lives are absolutely upside down. Intellectually, I know that it must be scary to be uprooted and basically dumped into a new family, but to hear those words from my own precious son’s mouth made me almost sick. It was a painful reminder. One that I needed. I think this foster journey is hard on me???? Reality check!

Caleb and The New Kid have much in common. They love Lightening McQueen and Transformers. They fib about brushing their teeth. They love to build things and to play outside. They’ve both experienced their lives being flipped upside down and inside out. They’ve both felt confused and afraid. And they’ve both been loved and prayed for more than they could comprehend or imagine by people who were virtual strangers. Strangers who became family.  

Welcome to the family, New Kid. 

Wear Confidence

I had lunch with a friend recently. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss some heavy stuff: our calling, God’s plan for our lives, service. Big stuff. However, we are a couple of girls so the conversation began with less weighty matters. We talked about clothes. And hair. And about how it isn’t fair that it seems for every decade older we get, we pack on another 10 pounds or so. She said that she thinks it’s all about picking the right clothes for the body you’ve got. I agreed…I’ve not mastered it, but it’s true. Accentuate what you like, camouflage what you don’t.

The conversation quickly took a more serious turn. My friend and I have both adopted. We’ve grafted precious littles into our families. We talked about our unique adoption processes, because just like birth experiences that usually end with the same outcome, the journey there is different for everyone. We celebrated our special families and talked about some of the unique challenges. Adoption is hard, no doubt about it. But adoption is beautiful.

When you’re on the adoption journey, there are SO many unknowns. Your whole world feels fragile, like it could come crumbling down at any minute. You spend most of your days nervous, anxious, worried. But, like a veil hanging over it all, there is such JOY!!! And peace. It is almost unbelievable that you can harbor both worry and peace inside the same person, but I promise you can. You worry in the minutes but you have peace about the plan. When you’re on that difficult, scary, hard journey you KNOW that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Deep in your bones you just know that God is pleased and you lean on that so hard that you know without God you’d just crash.

On both of our unique journeys, the ending was beautiful. We snuggled our sweet boys into our families and breathed a sigh of relief that the legal process was over and we could get on with the business of living our lives. The days melt into weeks and then months pass and we’ve both felt sort of an uneasiness. A restlessness. What on earth?? We’d just held God’s hand through a really difficult leg of the race and he helped us to the finish line and there we sit feeling…..weird. What happened?

It’s hard to go from a place of complete dependence on God, where you know that without Him you’d be a mess, to a place where you’re able to stand on your own again. Don’t get me wrong, I know I always NEED God, but sometimes I know it intellectually and sometimes I feel it, viscerally. I want to feel it that way all the time. I get hooked on the feeling but I struggle with how to find it. I want to know that I’m doing His plan in my everyday life with the same confidence that I knew I was doing His will on our adoption journey. How?

I’ve pondered this quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, since my lunch date with my friend. We opened our hearts that day and laid a lot on the table. We wrestled, figuratively, with the logistics of living God’s plan in our everyday lives. But at the end of our time I think we both walked away with more questions than answers.

I think the answer to our dilemma about God’s calling might have something to do with the conversation we had about fashion. Seems strange, but hear me out. We aren’t always exactly where we want to be. Our heart might be in missions but our children might just need the stability of being here. Our desire might be to fund a shelter for battered women but our bank account doesn’t reflect that. Our yearning might be to spend our days volunteering with needy children but our career path hasn’t led us there. I think the secret might be in picking the service for the life you’ve got right now. Today. Where are you right now and what can you be doing to share the love of Jesus? Ask yourself that question and then do it, with confidence.

It’ll look different for all of us. Some might answer it in big ways, making a huge life change. Most will answer it in small ways, little moments of kindness throughout the day. It really doesn’t matter how big or small it is because God doesn’t measure it that way. We can’t get caught up in the next big thing or we will be chasing air. I have done big things and I want to do more of them because they’re big and important and feel good. But those small kindnesses? They are just as big and important to God. I forget that often. If we’re running from big to bigger to biggest, we’ll end up exhausted.

It’s easy to find God when I need Him in that visceral way. But if I can’t slow down and quiet myself to find Him when life is calm and almost boring, that’s on me. He is always there. The challenge is sometimes in the mundane. I get discouraged, which is ridiculous because there are so many ways to serve. It’s like I’m standing in front of my closet full of clothes complaining that I have nothing to wear. The opportunities are there, they might not be flashy or trendy or glamorous but they might be just exactly right for me.

If you’re being called to something big then by all means, attack that big thing with tenacity and ambition. Own that big thing! If you’re being called to be kind to the lady in the check out line, OWN THAT TOO!! Be confident in where God has put you RIGHT NOW. It is no accident.

Hot Salsa and Hair Ties

The strangest thing happened this weekend.

I took Emma and Caleb to visit grandparents. Grandpa has been sick, so before we left they made him a card. They got out some construction paper and carefully folded it in half. Caleb determined what he wanted it to say and Emma helped him spell the hard words. They used markers and tape and pictures. It was cheesy and cute.

When we arrived, Caleb ran right in like he owned the place. He proudly presented the card and then he and Emma played with the puppy while I chatted with Grandpa about baseball and his garden. Then Grandma got home from the grocery store and we all met her outside and helped her carry in her bags. We visited in the kitchen and she told me about her pretty new wall hanging.

It didn’t take long for Caleb to start showing off. He does a pretty cool trick where he walks on his hands. Impressive, yes; but not for inside. So, we moved the group out to the front yard. Caleb showed off until his audience got bored and then the kids played volleyball with cousins.

It is August and although it wasn’t as hot as it has been, it only took a few minutes of running around for Emma to get hot. She came over to me, fanning her face and asking for a hair tie to put her hair up. I checked my pockets and had nothing for her. Aunt B offered one off her wrist and I helped Em wrangle her hair into a sweaty pony tail.

Caleb quickly tired of their structured play (he is much more of a free play kinda guy) and wound up on the porch swing with Grandma. We all sat out there for quite a while, talking about school and teachers and the Olympics and family and church and life.

When it was time to go, Grandpa sent us with 2 jars of his fresh, homemade salsa.

Seems completely normal, right? That is what makes this scenario strange and wonderful.

The strange part is how very normal it was. The strange part is how I came to be a part of this family. I wasn’t born into it. I didn’t marry into it. I was (kind of) adopted into it. This is Caleb’s birth family and they have embraced all of us in a pretty incredible way. They have been kind and patient and understanding.

We adopted one of theirs and they adopted all of us.

Strange. Unique. And really, really beautiful.

God’s will?


I’ve spent a whole lot of time all twisted up about God’s will for me. I’ve spent many hours thinking about it, talking about it, praying about it. Honestly, I’ve been obsessed at times. And I’ve been frustrated beyond belief.

This journey of foster care/adoption has brought me TO MY KNEES on more than one occasion. My prayer usually ends up being that God would show me His will with a big neon sign (subtlety isn’t my strong suit). I’ve thought that if there was something God wanted from me He would make it obvious. And He has done that. And that didn’t work out.

We were at a crossroads once and I didn’t know which way to go.  I knew there was a correct answer, but I couldn’t figure it out. I knew there was a sure bet, but I didn’t know what it was. I thought and talked and prayed about it. So much (too much??).  Then He revealed his will. I saw The Plan and it was perfect and obvious and beautiful. We moved forward and felt so much peace. And then it fell apart.

Frustration is an understatement. I was crushed. Confused. I felt abandoned. I had been so sure that we were following The Plan and yet, we weren’t. What I thought was the sure bet, the correct path, the right answer?? Well, it ended up being a big, fat nothing and we were back to square one. There was still a decision to be made and I felt less equipped than ever to make it. I fasted and prayed and listened. NOTHING.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re sitting there right now. At a crossroads, pondering a decision, ready for a change but with absolutely no idea what God wants you to do. Questioning a job change? A move? An adoption? Have you prayed about it? Still, nothing?!!? Let me share with you something that someone told me when I was in that scared/frustrated/crushed/confused place. Could you consider that maybe, just maybe, IT DOESN’T MATTER. Don’t misread that. I’m not saying that YOU don’t matter or that the decision you’re making isn’t huge and important. But do you think there’s a chance that no matter what decision you make GOD WILL BE THERE? That maybe there’s no correct answer, no sure bet? That God is waiting patiently to hold your hand no matter what? I think so.

This has changed me. As a recovering legalist, things have always been right or wrong in my eyes. It blew my mind to think that maybe there’s not a right or a wrong answer in every single situation. Sometimes there’s just a decision to be made and you make it the best you can and God is there on the other side of that decision to help you through it. He’s not waiting behind door number 1 or door number 2. He’s behind all the doors. He’s a big God.

God’s will for my life? To love Him and love others. If I’m faced with a quandry, and regardless of my decision I will be able to love God and love others, then I just do the best I can. God can use me no matter which way I end up going, as long as I’m still loving Him and loving others.

So let yourself off the hook a little. Absolutely keep praying. Don’t stop. But don’t get stuck. You’re smart and capable. Use what God has given you and make the very best decision you can make and trust that God will help you navigate it. Making difficult decisions is liberating and refreshing. It will build your confidence and your faith. And I suspect that you’ll look around in a few years and realize that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

 

1-2-3 GO!!

We bought a camper. It’s been terribly fun to load up on the weekends, drive to the lake and unplug (literally, there’s ZERO wi-fi or cell service where we go). We take the hammocks, a deck of cards, some board games, a set of horseshoes and just veg out. When we get antsy we head to the water and swim. The kids splash and race and giggle and laugh (and fight….let’s not over-glamorize it, there’s always some fighting).

This past weekend we camped with my family. As we were sitting on the sand watching the kids play in the water, my mom commented on what a great swimmer Caleb is….and that he was once NOT a fan of the water at all. It reminded me of this journal entry from three years ago. A great reminder that sometimes really great things require taking that initial scary leap. Don’t be afraid, just count to three and DO IT!!

3/30/13

Ahhhh…..vacation: no alarm clock, no work, no school, no daycare, no schedule, no house to clean, no deadlines: BLISS! Travel: 30+ hours over 7 days in a small car with 2 adults and 3 (yes, 3) kids: TERRIFYING! In our case the benefit outweighed the risk and we went for it. It turned out to be just what we needed. We spent most of our time hanging out in beautiful Colorado mountain country. It was quiet and peaceful and serene. Before we began our journey to CO, we spent a couple of days in St. Louis with some really great friends and their families. Lots of laughs and fun and great fellowship. The hotel that we stay in had a really cool pool. It was an indoor/outdoor pool. The two areas were separated by a “swim under” wall. The kids ventured out one by one and came back reporting how awesome it was. Back and forth. Inside, under the wall, now outside. Outside, under the wall, and back inside. The novelty not wearing off quickly for the kids. Except Caleb. He was afraid. He’s never been a fan of having water in his face, much less completely immersing himself in it but that was exactly what he would have to do to get to the outdoor pool. He wanted to do it so badly but he just couldn’t make himself. He would get ready and get right up next to the wall and then panic at the last second. Knowing how badly he wanted to do it, I formulated a plan to help. Holding him in my arms I used a technique that we learned with our daughter when we took her to swim lessons as an infant: 1-2-3 swim. Simply put, you count to three and then quickly bob their head under water and then pop them back up. I explained to him how to hold his breath on 3 and then *splash* under he went and back up he came marveling at the fact that he was just fine. Again and again we practiced until he was finally ready to try the real deal and go under the wall. He was scared but brave and so incredibly proud of himself when he got to the other side. HE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was scary but he did it. He trusted me when I told him that he would be ok and he did it. Somewhere deep down inside of him he know that he would be alright and he did it! It perfectly parallels this journey that we are on with foster care: it is scary but we are doing it. We are trusting Him that it will be ok and we are doing it. We know somewhere deep down it’s all going to be alright and we are doing it. 1-2-3-GO!

 

Hitting rocks and throwing stones

We live right across the street from my parents. It has potential to be disastrous but it’s worked out beautifully for us. We help each other out when we can and give each other space to do their own thing. My kids have the benefit of having their grandparents close and they (kids AND grandparents) love it. My folks don’t meddle and they don’t get in my business. With one exception. 

I love to mow. It’s instant gratification. You take a grubby, overgrown lawn and in no time you have a fresh carpet of green. I put on my head phones and jam. And I hit rocks. My husband and I have an unspoken agreement: I mow the lawn and he doesn’t give me grief about hitting rocks and dulling the blades. My dad doesn’t know about this agreement. Or he chooses to ignore it. 

I imagine that when my dad hears our mower fire up he grabs his notebook labeled “number of times Abbie has hit a rock” and goes to town filling up his tally sheet. If that’s not enough, he gives a report when I’m done. Within a day or two he will remark something along the lines of, “I heard you out mowing. You think you’re about to get those rocks chewed up yet?” Or, “I thought you were supposed to pick rocks, not hit them.” It’s innocent and he thinks he’s being funny but honestly, it kind of pisses me off. But you know what? When I know he’s home, listening to me mow, I’m more deliberate about NOT hitting rocks. 

No one wants to hear when they’re screwing up. It’s not fun to hear what you’re not doing right. But. There’s something about being held accountable. It’s not my favorite thing but it’s good for me. 

To be held accountable you must first admit that you’re not perfect. Ah, humility. And vulnerability. Ugly words sometimes, aren’t they? Well, I am not perfect. Far from it. Here’s one of my (many) shortcomings: I have a nasty habit of noticing people’s faults. Embarrassing to admit, but it’s honest. I give way more slack to the world but tend to hold my brothers and sisters in Christ to a much higher standard. And when I don’t think they’re doing what they ought to be, I get a little judgey. 

I need to be held accountable for it. Don’t allow me to engage you in conversation about what others are or are not doing that doesn’t meet my expectations. My expectations are skewed and don’t really matter. Only God’s opinion matters. 

I don’t need you to slay me or lecture me or counsel me. Just a gentle reminder, please. A simple, “watch the rocks, girl” will do just fine. 

I don’t want to be known for hitting rocks or throwing stones. Call me out when I do either, ok? Yes dad, I’m giving you permission too (not that you asked or require it). Just because it pisses me off doesn’t mean I don’t need to hear it. 

Birthday blues

Have you ever had a zit in your nose? Not on your nose or beside your nose, but INSIDE your nose? If not, you’re lucky. If so, you know they suck. I have one right now. The self conscious side of me is happy that at least the blemish is where no one can see it. The practical side of me is miserable. It’s allergy season so I’m a sneezing, nose wiping mess. Every time I sniffle I’m reminded of that pesky little pimple. Ew. Ow. TMI? Sorry.

Have you ever had a sad day? You don’t really see it coming and you can’t exactly explain it but you also can’t deny it? I’m having one of those. It’s not the soul crushing devastation that I’m unable to cover up. It’s more of a subtle nagging in my heart. A little “sad tug”. I can put on a happy face and count my blessings (I will. I. AM. BLESSED) but deep down, I am sad today.

Today my boy turns 8. When we met him, he was 4. This will be the year that he will have spent more than half his life with our family. It’s not like he will be any more “ours” when the scales tip, but I’ve been waiting for this. Now that it’s here, I’m unexpectedly sad.

When we celebrated his 5th birthday we had known him less than a year. On birthday number 6 the “plan” was so up in the air we didn’t know what was going on. By birthday number 7 he was an offical part of our family. And now we have reached the birthday that will mark half his life in our home. It’s a day to celebrate! We will eat cake and give presents and sing and smile and have fun, but inside I will be kind of a little sad too.

Today I’m reminded of the beautiful tragedy that is adoption. Adoption is redemption and love and grace. It is also grief and loss. I don’t know how you get one with out the other. It’s a package deal. Today I am sad because of all I missed those first four years. The more I get to know this incredible kid, the more I am grieved by what I don’t know. I wasn’t there for the first steps and the first words and the first birthdays. And that makes me sad.

I get the feeling he might be a little sad too. Grieving his own stuff. So tonight, after the wrapping paper has been picked up and the candles have been blown out and the wishes have been made, we might talk a little about our sad. Just because it isn’t visible to the world doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You know, like a zit in your nose.

Celebrating Laundry

  I’ve lost my touch in the kitchen. To be fair, I’ve never been a great cook. In the last couple of years, the few skills I had have gone completely down the drain. Due to our work schedules, my husband beats me home most nights. Because he’s a great guy, he has taken over dinner duty. Because he’s taken over dinner duty, I’m out of practice. It’s really not a bad gig and I’m certainly not complaining, but on those occasions that I NEED to cook, I struggle. My current repertoire includes spaghetti, taco salad, quesadillas. That’s pretty much it, except for the really desperate nights when I’ve called ramen noodles and grilled cheese “dinner”. 

I am not a great homework mom.  At the end of the day they’re tired, I’m tired and the last thing I want to do is figure out how to do common core math. Did you know you can You Tube “how to do long division”? Siri is also a valuable tool. She can tell your son why vegetables are important when he has to write 4 reasons and the only one you can come up with is, “I think they have fiber.” I pay my daughter to read with her brother so we don’t have to lie on the nightly reading log. 

I do not have a green thumb. Not for lack of effort. I would love to have a big, beautiful garden. I think it’d be really neat to grow our own veggies. I’ve tilled and fertilized and fenced and weeded and hoed. I grow terrific weeds. And the rabbits really enjoy my green beans. I can keep annual potted plants alive until mid-July most years, then they’re goners. 

So, I’m a terrible cook, a rotten teacher and have a black thumb…but you guys, my laundry game is on point. I’ve had a system in place for a couple of years and it’s still working. It’s not perfect (I don’t believe in things like “sorting” or “ironing”) but it works great for our crew. It goes like this: every night (every. single. night) I gather up all the clothes from all the hampers. They all get tossed in the washer together. Brights, whites, denim, towels, all of it, I do not discriminate. I start the load at bedtime and in the morning it goes into the dryer. After the kids are in bed at night I fluff and fold and start that day’s clothes in the washer, starting the magical cycle all over again. Each kid has a basket for their clean clothes and they’re responsible for putting them away. Guys, it’s beautiful.  I mean, look at this magnificent rainbow tower of baskets filled with neatly folded clothes….

 

I could beat myself up over my lack of skills, or I can celebrate my successes. Today I choose to celebrate. Laundry. I will celebrate laundry because I’m nailing it. 

What about you? What are you really owning right now? Are you a master diaper changer? Are you a boss at bath time? Are you a gifted organizer? Go ahead and pat yourself on the back for what you’re great at. It’s better than kicking yourself in the pants for what you’re screwing up.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go match some socks.