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

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

The Secret We’ve Been Keeping

Remember all those times when I alluded to something that was going on with me and Bryan that I couldn’t really share yet?

Well, If you follow me or Bryan on Facebook or Instagram, you may have gotten a clue when he posted this: adoption

With this caption–> “Adoption Training Day 1! Wish us luck!”

Yeah.

So on top of everything else we have going on what with HAVING A BABY and all, we’ve made the decision as a family to start our adoption process earlier than we had originally intended.

Adoption has always been on our radar and an ultimate plan for our family. I think on like our second date I planted the “oh hey I hope you’re cool with adoption if this works out” seed. Thankfully, Bryan was super on board. On top of wanting to adopt in the first place, I’ve always had a heart for a certain type: taking in older kids and sibling groups. The ones who usually struggle the most. the ones who are hardest to get adopted and will likely age out of the foster care system with no forever family.

This is something Bryan was also on board with. However, I always prayed that Bryan would not just “be on board,” but that this would be his thing too. I mean, there is that whole “spiritual leader of our household” factor. I knew that this was the case when I came home from work one day (pre-pregnancy) and he had submitted our general inquiry and filled out some basic paperwork to get us started. Out of the blue. Yeah, God seems to have known what he was doing with us.

We did a lot of praying, talking, and driving other adopted families nuts with questions about birth order effect, what our timing should look like, and if we should adopt after or before our first biological child. Our answer was a lot of silence.

This is pretty common with me actually. God usually doesn’t speak to me in sweet whispers and precious moments like He does with some of my peers. I never “feel led” necessarily. What I do feel is an indescribable urgency and conviction to run full speed ahead at a goal or mission until God slams that door closed and (usually much later than I’d like) gives me a peace about standing still for a minute. Bryan loves this about me. You can ask him and he’ll tell you how adorable it is when my anal-retentive, logical mind turns into irrational mush when I “feel led.”

So in this silence, we “decided” (<–lol) to just wait it out until we felt like we weren’t supposed to wait anymore.

Flash-forward to pregnancy, where we were still just, you know, waiting and stuff, when I felt that familiar conviction and urgency.

I was scrolling through Facebook at work one day, and a photo listing for Project Zero rolled through my feed. If you’re not familiar with this awesome non-profit, then please click that link. They serve to bring awareness of waiting children, usually OLDER KIDS AND SIBLING GROUPS, to families in Arkansas. This was nothing new, I saw their stuff all the time. The smiling, heartbreaking faces of kids who desired deeply to be loved forever always move me. Always. But I always say to myself that we are waiting. Until this day, when a photo of two brothers popped up. They were different. They were important to me somehow. I took a screenshot of them and “jokingly” (<–not really) sent it to Bryan with the text “I want them.”

Bryan, the one of us who is rational in these situations and NEVER takes off running without carefully considering where he is going, replies “Let’s do it.”

Our next steps involved a whirlwind of emails and calls to Christie (the co-founder of Project Zero), the boys’ adoption specialist, DHS, and the directors of The CALL in NWA.

See? Full-speed.

Our next few months involved an initial home visit with our DCFS caseworker (Who we LOVE!), lots more emails and phone calls, filling out every form in the history of the world, becoming CPR certified, and most recently, the completion of 30 hours of training. Hence the photo and caption above. (Just to put things in perspective, this is about 85% of the process. We only have 2 steps left to complete.)

CPR Certification never looked so fun.

CPR Certification never looked so fun.

It also involved us learning a powerful lesson: Not everyone will be supportive of us and what we’re doing.

My first reaction to the comments that we received from our shocked friends and acquaintances was anger.

Why do they care anyway? This isn’t their family.

How could she say that to someone she doesn’t even know very well?

 What gives him the right to have an opinion about what we do?

Do they really believe that we are so naive to think that this will be a cake-walk?

I realized that this came from a place of hurt. As a person who too-deeply merits validation from others, I needed positive reinforcement that we were doing the right thing. It was hard not to get indignant and want to point all of them to the multitude of Bible verses commanding us as Christians to care for the least of these. How could they not see the need, and much worse, discourage us from looking at it too?

We stopped talking about it. We didn’t tell people unless they asked, and we certainly didn’t broadcast it on any social media.

I was tired of crossing names off the list of people we could depend on when the going was sure to get tough.

The best part of training to me was that no one seemed to think we were crazy. No one batted an eye to the fact that I am 7+ months pregnant and working toward opening our home for concurrent-planning foster care. As we introduced ourselves, we made a joke about how we were apparently crazy to be doing this, and to our delight, no one seemed to get the joke.

It validated us that we were following God’s lead here. The amount of encouragement and strengthening we received in those 30 hours is priceless. And having a ridiculously sore butt after 30 hours of sitting is worth it.

We might not get those boys I saw, and I’m finally ok with that. But for whatever reason, God used them to strike that ever-familiar fire under my feet and get me, and Bryan, running. I hope we can provide a forever home for them. We already love them so much. Whatever the case, I pray continually that God will give me a peace about whatever direction His opening and closing of doors leads us.