No More Lemons, Please

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To those of my readers who say that they love me and my blog because I am unafraid to be real, this one is for you. I am writing this through the tears of an exhausted, hormonal, self-conscious, anxious wreck of a person.

I have learned in my all-of-26 years that life ebbs and flows. This is nothing new. There are good days and bad days, and most of an average life is constructed of seasons where the good days outnumber the bad. “This is just a crappy day.” we say, hoping and praying and KNOWING that tomorrow will be better. But what do we do when the proverbial switch is flipped? When the bad days seem to swallow us? What do we do when everything should add up to happiness, but it just doesn’t?

I have been wrestling a lot lately with the concept of perception. I know in my heart that I don’t have it that bad. “All of my kids are healthy. I have a great husband. I have beautiful home. Our income is stable.” These are things I try really hard to tell myself when the going gets tough. Other women wake up not knowing whether or not their children will have food that day, or whether their husband/boyfriend/etc. will be kind or abusive that day. My heart aches for these women. I remind myself of them and pray for them when I become enamored by my own “sufferings.” But sometimes, I can’t talk myself out of the tears. Sometimes, life hands me a lot of lemons and the lemonade-makin’ machine is broken.

Today is one of those days. I’ve had it with the babies’ crying, with the loneliness, with the being needed, with the adulting, with the responsibility, with the expectations, with the spoon-feeding, with the diaper changing, with the keeping up of appearances (because even the most transparent of people still have to pretend sometimes), with the politeness that I don’t feel like mustering up, with being tired.

People say a lot of nice things about me. They tell me that I am a blessing. I smile and make some sarcastic or self-deprecating comment. They tell me that they don’t know how I do it. I say Neither do I. What I feel like doing sometimes is tearing up and honestly telling them “I don’t.”

This is such a hard season. Three babies under a year and a half is asinine and I am constantly torn apart by my desire to snuggle and hug and ENJOY and my desire to just be done with this phase. I’m over the crying babies, the not being able to do anything out of the house by myself, the nursing, if I’m being honest. And yet sometimes I never want them to grow up.

After I had Grady, I suffered from some postpartum anxiety and hormone balance issues (outside of the normal hormone problems). It was a rough 6 months for our marriage and for my sanity and I didn’t even know how to tell anyone about it. All I knew was that something wasn’t right. Surely this was not normal. The problems went away only because I got pregnant again. I spent the second half of this pregnancy terrified that I would become a basket case again. That I would crack under the pressure. That I am not enough. And some days, like today, I feel like that is true.

In a normal season, I would know that I would wake up tomorrow and feel better. That this is just a crappy, bad dream of a day, but I don’t know that lately. What if it’s not?

I’m learning to trust God and lean on him more, but I am a habitual “Do-it-myselfer.” I tell myself that God is busy with those other women I mentioned above. That my silly anxiety would be a selfish issue to bring up. God has been letting me fall on my face enough lately to draw me back to Him and to show me that my emotions and self-worth are important to Him, and that He is big enough for all of us, duh.

I say all of that with the caveat that I don’t at all intend for that to be the “message” for my post today. Sure, they are nice words, but when I say that I am learning and convincing and working, I mean that to the very fullest extent that I can convey. I don’t even feel good about writing those words because I would never want anyone to think that because I know those things, that I am smiling behind my computer and satisfied with the moral of this story and tying it with a neat little bow. The reason I wrote this today was mostly because I needed to. Sure, I hope that my bluntness and in-eloquent venting might resonate with someone else, but sometimes forcing myself to come out from behind the facade that others build for me because I am “so selfless and inspiring” is the therapy needed to get me through another day.

Love, Alex

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Sometimes You Just Fix It

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There was a viral video that came out a couple of years ago in which a woman is complaining to her husband about a problem and was upset because he just kept trying to fix the problem instead of listening to her. It would cut to her husband intermittently, and he would exhaustively plead with her to simply fix the problem and that the solution was so obvious. In the middle of the video, we see that she has a nail stuck in her head, and her husband was trying to get her to stop complaining about the pain and simply remove the nail. They go on to argue about the situation and he finally gives in and “listens” to her talk about the problem some more.

Here, you can just watch it for yourself.

This is a bit sexist, pretty funny, and sadly, painfully true.

My husband is a pretty patient man. He has been there for me through now two pregnancies, two c-sections, and 4 ongoing attempts at child-rearing. It has not and is not pretty.

On Saturday, I had a meltdown that I wish I could blame on hormones, but it pretty much only stems from my own impatience and pettiness for my body to get “back to normal.” (2 weeks postpartum/post-op… seems reasonable, right?) Give me a break, feeling comfortable and somewhat attractive in clothes is a big deal! Anyway,  I was complaining that I didn’t have a lot to wear and that I was tired of looking this way and bah blah blah. I cried, you guys. Bryan sat patiently and waited for me to finish blubbering and then calmly responded:

“Ok, lets go get you a couple of things then.”

Like oh ok.

Why do I make things so difficult?

We drove the three minutes it takes to get to Old Navy where they happen to have been running a Mothers’ Day sale with BOGO free t-shirts and 20% off shorts (Which is what I needed the most). I was a happy camper. I feel 100% better knowing that I have a couple of things that actually fit me right now. Just whatever if they will be too big soon. You can take that logic and hit the road, sir. Alls I know is that I have crap to wear now.

Sometimes, the answer really is black and white. Sometimes, we need to shut up, stop talking about the problem, and just freaking fix it.

(Yes, Mom, I know you’ve been telling me this for years.)

Love, Alex

What I Learned about God from Gilmore Girls

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I’m really bad about being distracted from God. Part of me has come to accept this and feels like God is telling me that He is and I should give myself some grace because of the season of life that I am in and the whole sacrificial obedience thing we have going on. That is not at all meant to come across as self-righteous, it’s just something that I feel like God is giving me the go-ahead to give myself a break on right now. The other part of me really wants to be better and has intense moments of trying to be. God tends to send me little moments that remind me of how awesome and how present He is even when I’m distracted by being climbed on or spit-up on or by falling asleep at 9 pm.

One of those moments came while watching one of my favorite tv shows, Gilmore Girls. I really don’t think of myself as a “basic white girl” in many areas. I don’t like pumkin spice lattes (#psl), I do not own the Urban Decay “Naked” pallet, and I have never worn a pair of Ugg boots. However, if you were to pay attention to my tv-watching habits, you would believe that I was a BWG with full intensity. Friends? Love ’em all. And Gilmore Girls? If there were a real Stars Hollow (And not just that town they

 based it off of), I would be saving up for my vacation home ASAP. I’ve already seen almost every episode (I have not seen almost all of season 7, part of which is because I know how it goes until the end and I am fiercely #TeamLuke, and part of it is because I have a weird fear of watching the endings of things. But that’s another topic for another day.), but I re-watch it during feedings or when I’m getting in bed, etc.

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The real bummer about this little message from God is that I didn’t get it. Until like a week later that is. Here’s how it all went down:

So the episode was the one in season 2 where Lorelei is graduating from business school and Rory convinces her to go to the ceremony and celebrate herself a little bit. Fast-forward to the middle-ish part where Rory skips school on a whim to go see Jess (#TeamJess forever) in NYC. Her bus gets stuck and she misses the very ceremony that was her idea in the first place. When Lorelei gets home, Rory is waiting for her and goes on a long rant about how crappy she is and how much Lorelei must hate her and says she’s sorry about a billion times and then goes on to ground herself and send herself to bed without supper. Lorelei then stops her and says that she still wants to celebrate with her by going to grab dinner. Rory quickly tells her no, that she doesn’t deserve it. Lorelei responds with “No, but I do.” (The clip is terrible quality, but if you need a visual…)

So I thought nothing of this until church this Sunday, when we were singing a song called “Ever Be.” You can find the whole song at that link, and I really hate it when bloggers put parts of music lyrics in their posts (Maybe I just get bored easily?), but I’m going to be one of those bloggers today, sorry.

Now you’re making me like you
Clothing me in white
Bringing beauty from ashes
For You will have Your bride

So only then is when it dawned on me, that the Gilmore Girls thing was for me, too. I realized that God was trying to reiterate a point that I have understood in theory for as long as I can remember, but, as I stated earlier, I tend to become distracted from. I’ve never been one of those people who has struggled with feeling like I had to earn God’s love, but I do get caught up in the perfection game quite often. I always feel like I am being a bad daughter or friend or whatever all-encompassing relationship with God that I feel I should be better at holding up my end of the deal on. I suck at “praying without ceasing,” I find myself guiltily checking ahead on my Bible app to see how much more there is to read, I talk way too much about my worries and stresses instead of actually praying about them, and I rarely feel so connected to God that I can’t help but talk about Him in every conversation I have. I envy people that do, and I compare myself to them a lot. I compare without ceasing. That I can manage, apparently.

When I heard this song, I realized that God was probably like “Alright Alex, let’s try this again. You’re always going to suck it up on your end of our relationship. Everyone is, no matter how holy the grass on the other side must look. The bottom line is that while you are (most certainly) not, I am perfect and I love you and I deserve to have you as my child.

How can something meant to be so freeing and flattering feel like so much pressure? God was telling me that nothing I do or have is something that I deserve or am entitled to or accomplished without His guidance. There is zero point to striving for perfection apart from Him. I often feel like if I work hard enough or stay busy enough or am productive enough, then I can forge happiness. I still, after all of these years of Christianity under my belt, find myself trying to make tick-marks on a checklist to feel like I am good-enough. I’m glad that the God of the freaking universe loves me enough to hit me over the head with reality and force me to get my head out of my own butt.

Anyway, this may or may not interest other people, but I thought it was pretty cool to get a Jesus-moment from Gilmore Girls. In closing, I’ll get this stuck in your head too:

Love, Alex

The Epic Homework Battle of 2016…and 2015

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Like many kids who have come from the system, El Oso is an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in stubbornness wrapped in self-esteem issues wrapped in a rabbit hole of baggage. We have been working with him on no short of 20 bazillion issues all at once. Ok fine, maybe a little short of that. I digress. It’s been rough, no surprises there. He has been improving on so much, though! He came to us with the maturity of maybe a 10 year old, and I’d say he’s up to 13ish now, which is huge! He’s getting better with his social cues, his knowledge and understanding of wrong and right, his acclimation into a normal family life in general, and a crap-ton of other things.

The big problem right now?

Schoolwork. AKA the bane of my existence.

It’s an interesting concept when I have to sympathize with my parents and all they had to deal with when raising me and/or my siblings…only 8 years after they were done doing it. It helps that they are still in the thick of the child-rearing with my sister, but still, it’s super weird to talk teenagers with them when I was one a mere 6 years ago.

We were/are brought up to believe that school was an important key to getting to our goals in life. We wouldn’t fathom not turning in homework or not studying when we needed to or not participating in class or any other things that we could control in regards to school without fear of lengthy lectures followed by some form of punishment. Ahem, discipline. Sure, I didn’t always study, but I didn’t always need to study, and I knew that and had the wherewithal to regulate and manage my own crap. My brother forgot to turn in homework all the time in high school and was usually punished for it. He is also smart enough to where he could literally be on his phone the entirety of a class period and then ace a test on what was covered. Stupid smarty pants. This is why he is in med school though. Glad one of us can buy that retirement beach house my parents have always dreamed of, I guess.

The point is, we had 14 full years of of parenting before we reached high school. My parents had 14 years to teach us how to be responsible and how to care about our grades and how to expect the best out of ourselves. We weren’t always perfect of course, believe me, (I once spent a good 2-3 solid months grounded. My siblings have been in similar predicaments, but they read this blog and one of them still cares about the world knowing this stuff. So if you want to private message me…just kidding) but it went a long way. So what do you do with a kid who has been told his whole life that trying in any capacity at all or that doing even a small amount of the work in any shape or form constitutes “him trying his very best?” My anger and frustration fades to sympathy when I realize that this is truly not his fault. He doesn’t know. Sweet Oso. (Or Oso Dulche, as the creator of his nickname would say it.)

So this is where we are. The past week, or more maybe, I try to lose count, we have had a blow out every single night about the stupid schoolwork. I’m exhausted. Bryan is exhausted. El Oso has to be exhausted.

The problem, and I say “the problem” like it’s the only one or like I even fully understand “the problem,” is that he has never had the expectations that he has now with us. He all of the sudden has people checking up on his crap and calling him out on it and he is acting like the freaking apocalypse must be nigh.

Now let me be clear. This is NOT a situation where he is truly only capable of his current output. He is not lower functioning and hasn’t had even HALF of the experiences that most kids in the system have dealt with. He has experienced very little movement during his time in care and has managed to not only NOT fall behind one to two grades as is common in foster care, but has maintained being a year AHEAD of where he should be according to his age and the cutoff date. This has been accomplished via years of skating by. He has had it drilled into his head that if he can just stay below the radar, everything will be fine. Don’t excel, don’t fail too hard. As long as other kids are falling on their faces harder than I am, everything will be ok. And this has of course laid the groundwork for a whole crop of laziness to grow as well.

My reaction to this has been very mature and understanding. I always speak in soft tones and refuse to let my frustration translate out of my brain and into a vein slightly protruding from my forehead, or, Heaven forbid, a snarky comment…or two.

I’ll let you decide whether or not that is fact or crap.

On the real though. This ridiculousness continues to be HARD. On Monday we opted to order take-out so that I could spend the entire evening walking through his homework and studying with him. We made leaps and bounds of progress! Developed a new system! It was wonderful! And then while I was still patting my own back for a job well-done Tuesday evening, we found him fallen asleep mid-homework with almost zero of the Monday’s knowledge having transferred. Cue another lengthy conversation about responsibility and listening, and selfishness, and rebellion and blah blah blah blah blah.

Can you see it? ALL OF THE MATURITY SPEWING FROM ME, THE PARENT?

Sometimes, I want to declare responsibility bankruptcy too, kid. Do you have room in the center of the universe for me as well? Does this sound a bit harsh? Just wait for the annoyingly hard lesson that always comes after I get too wrapped up in someone else’s problems.

During my epic tantrum is usually when God comes in all High and Mighty (<– see what I did there?) and is like “You see it don’t you? How ridiculous you’re acting about something that you do as well, but on a bigger scale?” Ugh God. You and Your logic. The theme continues: I learn more about myself and my bratty, ungrateful, selfish nature by getting mad at someone else for doing it to me. God: “El Oso’s stubborn and refuses to see the logic and do the right thing for the hundredth time? Hmm sounds like someone else I know.”

God: Infinity.

Alex: Still zero.

I’m glad someone’s got this, because I sure don’t.

Love, Alex

For fellow foster/adoptive parents: This is not news to you and I would love to have coffee with you. Everyone else, I welcome your comments and encouragement IN LOVE.

 

Nothing in It for Me

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I’m a feely person. I am 100% an external processor, it is difficult for me to “let things go” (how does one even just “let something go?”), and hormones are sooooo not my friend. SO this whole raising a baby-turned-toddler/adoption/growing another baby/adoption again thing has really taken a toll on my emotional state.

People say a lot of things about me. Lately, most of those things have been positive. “You guys are just so awesome.” “I’m so thankful for your calling.” “I don’t know how you do it, but God is really blessing you guys.” “She is a super-mom.” This is all very flattering, but do you want to know how I feel? I feel like a piece of crap. I feel like a selfish, whiny, brat of a person and I wish I could feel a lot stronger. 

The truth is that I am not a strong person, and for the first time in my life I can say that I can’t do this alone. That’s not to say that I could before, but I think God has been stringing me along for my entire life letting me think that I had it so hard and that I was handling everything so nicely, only to teach me a lesson that I apparently badly needed to learn, and with nothing short of grandeur. This lesson has come in loud and clear from the Big Guy. Are you ready?

“This isn’t about you, Alex.”

Ugh. Ouch.

You see, I didn’t even know it, but all of this excitement and pushing forward and all of the things that kept me (and both of us) going through this process was all about how it made me feel. It made me feel like a baller who was just doing the Lord’s work with grace and ease. Then reality hit me like a ton of bricks and it hurt. Badly. Having a teenager is hard. Teenage boys are gross and bonding with one in a maternal way isn’t as natural as I thought it would be. It often feels like all I am getting out of this is more laundry and less food. This is real-talk, you guys. THIS CRAP IS HARD. I don’t really know how to eloquently put it. Throw in a new baby with his own set of health problems and who cries all of the time, and my eyes have only one setting now: crazy.

This reality set in on day one. I sat in my closet alone on move-in day and realized that this didn’t feel as good as I thought it would. I asked God what was wrong. How could something I was so excited about not feel all that exciting after all? Every time I have asked Him that question, which is all the time, His answer has come in loud and clear (which for me is a rare occasion. As you may remember, I am not a sweet whispers from God kind of person. I am a kick-in-the-pants kind of person for dang sure.):

“This is still My plan, even if there’s nothing in it for you.”

So this is not necessarily a sweet blog post in which the lesson or message can be wrapped up neatly with a bow. This crap is still hard. I am not nearly refined enough to take that message from God and allow peace to fall upon me or something. I am getting by a day at a time with the help of those closest to me (including God), and lots of crying and chocolate. I am a firm believer in the power of a good cry. My husband, on the other hand, wishes I would learn another coping mechanism that doesn’t stress him out quite as much. FAT CHANCE DUDE.

PS: Please don’t think I have gone off of the rails and am against foster-care and adoption now. That is the opposite of the truth. I am still 100% in and think that (most of) you should be too. Please still ask me questions about all of that, you can just trust that my answers will be raw and real and honest, which is really better, right?

Love, Alex

The Calm before the Storm

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I am literally minutes away from getting a delivery. Of a baby. Someone is coming my house to deliver a baby. To live with us. This is in addition to the baby I already have and the baby growing inside me right now.

I wanted to take a minute, really just for myself, to compose myself before possibly the craziest time *ever* begins. I don’t know what to expect, what to do, or how to be. All I know is that God has been setting me up for a while to trust Him with everything in me. He’s done that by turning my life upside down lately. Multiple hospital visits,a surgery, a surprise pregnancy, becoming the mother of a teenager I didn’t know before, scary moments, and lots of change. I have been an emotional wreck. And now He’s asking me to trust Him again.

I tried to enjoy my last night of regular sleep, but I really couldn’t. Dreams of chaos crowded my mind. As soon as the new baby starts figuring out sleep is probably when the even newer baby will make her grand entrance, then the cycle will start over. These last few moments are so weird. I feel like they should be sacred or something, but really they are just full of anxiety. I know I should be better, but I’m not. I feel like a crazy person. I have no idea what to expect and that scares the crap out of me. I am not a go-with-the-flow person. I need plans and structures and routine. We’ve been over this before, it’s nothing new. I am not easy-going, but apparently God would like for me to be.

So alright God, here goes.

Love, Alex

Breaking the Silence

Oh hey.

So, It’s been a while. Liiiiiike 4ish months? Something like that. It’s time for that to end. I never intended on taking that much time off from this space, but I think I needed it. And not in a whimsical “I just needed some space” or some crap. No. Like in an “I am dropping the ball in every area of life and I need to figure myself out for a sec.”

“From what?” you ask. Or maybe you don’t, but just humor me for a sec. There are quite a few things that have been pulling me away from writing all of the many thoughts and feelings and all the things here. For starters, I’m pregnant again. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, then you probably saw our annual announcement photo. Just in case though…

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This is a pretty accurate depiction of our chaos actually. Who is the other person in the photo? Well that’s the second main component of the growing list from the whole me-dropping-the-ball-on-life thing. THAT is the child we are adopting. Yep, at the same time as we are having another baby. He was living with us for exactly 1.5 weeks when we found out I was pregnant. Try to tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor and I will fight you.

This has by far been the hardest thing I have ever been through, which might be sad, yes, but still difficult none the less. I really look forward to writing more in detail about the triumphs and battles and emotions (Which OMG there are so many of) and wins on this blog. I’m sorry that I have not done so in the past few months. I needed to write. I needed to pour my feelings out. I needed to be snarky and honest and vent and everything else, but I just haven’t been able to even wrap my mind around taking that time. I am running on empty, and I am so hoping that my corner of the interwebs will help fill me up again.

That, and Jesus. And sweet tea, as it turns out. And my people. You guys mean more than you know and I’m sorry I suck at friendship and daughterhood and sisterhood and personhood lately. I love you.

Love, Alex