About Me

My photo
WE HAVE MOVED TO A NEW SITE!!! http://www.mommyhood-shivonne-costa.squarespace.com/ As of June 18, 2015, this is our new location. Please come join us!! I started blogging the week I got married. I thought it would be nice to blog the full first year, you know, to cherish those memories and share them with my family and friends. Little did I know, it was going to be my greatest coping skill for the craziness that comes with marriage! I found writing to be a fantastic way to reframe an ugly marital spat into a humorous event, allowing me to smile at the situation by the end of the post. And now, I am honored to share my struggles and joys of fostering, adopting, birthing, and raising 4 beautiful children. It's my hope that others gain laughter and new ways to see their own frustrating life situation through my writing. Because I love to write! PS, look for me on Facebook - "Mommyhood-Shivonne Costa"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Oh, The Puzzles We Face

     Have you ever had one of those eye-opening moments where you take a step back, look around you, and say to yourself, "How did my life come to this?"
     Oh good, you do this everyday, too? At least it's not just me!
     I mean, I love my life... seriously, I do. But during my days of Peppa Pig and peak-a-boo, I find myself contemplating earlier times. It wasn't that long ago that I was agonizing over which college to go to - which major to choose - which jobs to apply for - which man to marry - how many kids to have. I don't know that I realized it then, but my life would actually continue to exist once those big choices were made. Graduating, getting a job, and acquiring a family didn't, in fact, end my existence. However, the big choices in life have now boiled down to Gerber's chicken and apples or banana-mango-carrot - signing up for swim lessons on Tuesdays or keeping them on Thursdays - name brand face wash or settling for the DG brand. 
     For so long it seemed that my entire life was moving with such momentum, such intensity, in a direction that was still unknown.... and that was exhilarating! The highs and the lows of waiting for acceptance letters, final grades to be posted, promotions to be announced, proposals to be made - those feelings made me feel so alive, so anxious, and so ridiculously real all at the same time. I almost wish I could go back in time and whisper in my 18-year-old ear, "Don't fret about those extra-curriculars toooo much, girl. They won't help you budget the grocery money or plan a 7-year-old's Frozen-themed birthday party." 
     And it isn't just the major life choices that seem to have fallen to the wayside. As a working woman, a therapist, I found great joy and accomplishment in helping others - in figuring out how to work with each client to move the puzzle pieces of their lives around in a way that would allow them make sense of it all. Sometimes... sometimes I find it a little less than satisfying to work my current puzzles, puzzles like how to rearrange my entire to-do list around a baby's napping schedule (a schedule that seems to change daily), how to get a household fed, all the kids to pee, the dogs to pee, and the baby's diaper changed in a 15 minute time span before gymnastics, how to spend as little money as possible on Christmas without forgetting to show appreciation to my kids' teachers (God knows they deserve it for all my kids put them through!) and our mail woman (who blessedly allows extra time for me to come to the door, knowing that I have a baby and three dogs to manhandle with each knock, while she hand-delivers the Christmas gifts that I was too busy to go to the stores to actually purchase - and on the rare occasion that I'm not home, she clears away the muddy boots and left out toys to leave my packages on the dryest part of the porch), or how to sew the continuous holes and popped-off-buttons that my oldest son accumulates with each outfit he wears (this puzzle is particularly challenging because I am no seamstress!!).
     Wyatt is now 7 months old and our bank account is sadly dwindling with having gone the past 8 months on one salary. The time is drawing nigh for me to return to work. I will once again get to experience the joy of solving real puzzles - fixing real problems - experiencing real dilemmas.
     So, why am I so crushed to be handing off my diaper bag for my briefcase? Why do tears run down my cheeks at the thought of not doing hours of spelling words and subtraction problems each night? 
     Could it be possible that I've grown rather fond of the mundane? You'd think that after this week of cleaning up the big kid's throw up, the baby's throw up, the dog's throw up, the toddler's diaper blow outs, the baby's blow outs, and slipping in the dog's blow outs, I'd be ready to throw in the towel (that very dirty towel) and be hitting the pavement running to find a life that doesn't involve wiping anyone else's butt. Except I'd clean a million little dimply bottoms for the chance to hear my little man's first words - to be there to see him crawl after spending weeks on the floor next to him, showing him how to get up on his hands and knees instead of just power-humping the floor with all his might.
     Could it be possible that I'm still working out my own puzzles? Like, how to feel remotely sexy for my husband when my brain is screaming how shlubby and gross I am. Or how to get enough sleep to get through the day when the little people in my life need me so much in the nighttime hours. Or how to not lose my crap on the big kids when they daily test every patient fiber in my body. Or how to manage my fear that I will go to back work and no longer be good enough... for anyone. 
     I want to go back to that 18-year-old girl and hug her with all my might. I want to tell her that I DO understand her stress and the dilemmas she's facing - that despite our change of scenes, our decisions to choose one thing and leave the other behind is still very much real... and painful.  I want to tell her that it may not seem like it, but bedtime prayers and first kisses actually trump A+s and raises. And that one day she will find herself missing her college days and single life less and less. And that our puzzles will continually evolve as we move through life, but that we aren't defined so much by our ability to solve them as much as our courage to face them.
     This Christmas season, whatever it is you're facing, be it poopy diapers or company cutbacks or preparing for first-time parenthood or answering the time-honored question of "When will you finally settle down?", my prayer is that you will remember to love one another.
     Love each other well.
     While passing out good cheer, remember that the person beside you may have a puzzle that looks different than yours, but their puzzle, great of small, still requires a great deal of courage and probably a hug from a fellow puzzle-facer. So give the hugs freely this holiday. (And for God's sake, if you're the one with the dirty burp cloth on your shoulder, try to remember to take it off before the hugs this year, would ya?)

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Sarcastic Welcome Wagon

            I never thought I’d say this, but….. I miss being pregnant. (GASP!) I know. I know! Those are the words I was pretty positive would never leave my lips, not in a million years. Now, I’m not saying that I long for the days of constant puking and horrible back pains – not a chance! But let’s just say that I didn't acknowledge the perks of pregnancy and give them their due at the time. But as I sit here in my grass-is-always-greener state of mind, I feel a tinge of nostalgia for the days of swollen feet and profuse sweating.

            This week, three evils have resurfaced in my life – evils that pregnancy had gloriously masked. And now, in the full light of post-natal day, I’m feeling rather deflated (and not just in my abdomen).

1)      Welcome Back, Nail Biting. Ugh! The habit is so disturbing I can’t even handle it. I don’t enjoy biting, I don’t like the way my nails look, and I can’t even handle thinking of the trillions of germs I’m ingesting each time I put a fingernail to my lips. And after 16 months of gorgeous, hard-as-rock nails, I’m back to square one. Me and my stubs are disappointed in my defeat. Pregnancy hormones did for my nails what nothing ever has – I had perfect color, shape, and thickness growing at rapid rates from my fingertips with nary a break, crack, or peal. But even though I’m still nursing my little man, the hormones had to eventually come to an end, bringing with it dull, flimsy, pealy nails. And what’s an ex-nail biter to do? Leave them there, all scratchy and sharp? My OCD wouldn't allow this. And so, with bitterness in my tone, I say Welcome Back, Nail Biting.

2)      Welcome Back, Period. In the past year-and-a-half, I’d forgotten just how horrible it is to bleed profusely and for no freaking reason at all. If this were a nosebleed, I’d already be at the hospital getting cauterized. Isn’t it bad enough that I’m still not able to fit into half of my old clothes? Isn’t it enough that I’m utterly exhausted and that I change more diapers in a day than I get hours of sleep? Nope. Apparently it wasn't enough. Because now I get to wear nipple pads AND crotch pads, along with my granny panties and my super huge nursing bra. I make Victoria’s Secret models weep. So, with sarcasm and utter hatred, I say Hello, Cramps. Hello, Tampons. Hello, Back Aches. Welcome Back, Period, you disgusting piece of crap.

3)      Welcome Back, Mood Swings. Perhaps this one goes along well with number 2, but it’s also a sign that my hormones have continued their decline from pregnancy and freshly-labored Mama to just a regular old crabby, menstruating machine. And unfortunately, these mood swings are running rampant! No one cries over a generic Christmas card. No one. Oh, wait…. I do! I cry over generic Christmas cards, staring at a pile of laundry, and each time I step on the scale. On the flip side of all this sobbing is the real problem. The rage. I never realized it before, but when I watch crime shows on television, I’ve now noticed that I’m one pick axe, roll of duct tape, and a trash bag away from finding myself on America’s Most Wanted. It’s crazy how quickly it creeps up! One minute I’m making dinner while quizzing spelling words, and the next minute I’m screaming my head off because my kids bought themselves gifts at Santa’s Workshop when they were told only to buy for their family. (The hundreds of dollars spent on presents currently sitting under the Christmas tree was obviously not enough for them.) I threw things, screamed things, grounded things, and threatened things. I was seconds away from bellowing to the entire world that there really is no Santa Claus! (Spoiler Alert?) And you know what followed this almighty tantrum? You guessed it. More tears. And alas, with bi-polar tendencies I holler a hearty Welcome Back, Mood Swings!

I can see now why women have more children. For a long time I didn't see it. I couldn't look past the terrible pregnancy symptoms and terrifying labor and delivery events long enough to realize that these women of multiple children are not crazy. No. They’re just putting off the Welcome Wagon a little bit longer. And to these women I tip my hat. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Problem With Stupid

                There has been a swift change in the intellectual order of our household – a disturbance in the force – an attempted dethroning of the smart by the dumb. For some reason, my 1st and 3rd graders have decided that they are, in fact, now smarter than I am.
I, for one, am elated to know that my tax dollars are allowing our district to hire such phenomenal teachers that my children are now able to leave home and make it in the world on their own at the ripe ages of 6 and 8 – their brilliance is utterly astounding, to be sure!
I am even more thrilled with the idea that I no longer have to carry the burden of thinking for myself, because I have been graciously blessed with not just one but two people that are willing to tell me everything I need to know. I need not question their reasoning, nor do I dare offer a secondary opinion. Oh, no… not a chance. Because, as previously stated, I am no longer smarter than the little people living in my home.
Just this week, I’ve had the privilege of being told how to pack a diaper bag… because obviously, I’ve been doing it incorrectly for the past 2 years. After all this time, you’d think I could’ve figured out a system, but noooo. I’m too low on the scholastic totem pole for diaper-bag-packing. I am also too under-educated to be able to complete simple math. The straight A’s I received all through school mean nothing to a 1st grader… a 1st grader that has received consecutive F’s on her timed math quizzes for the past 2 weeks.
Stupidly, I tried to offer rational thought into the mix, just for kicks and giggles. Not that I was saying she was wrong, per say, but I wanted her to be able to show me exactly how she arrived at the notion that 6 + 7 = 7… you know, just so I could learn from her brilliance and all. But that little nitwit got so defensive! How DARE I question her greatness?
“I swear, Mom! I swear that’s the answer! I know how to do math!”
Really? Your inability to do basic addition is worthy of a double-swear?
I reasonably tried to offer her an example in words that she’d understand. “Taylor, if you have 6 bracelets and I give you 7 more bracelets, you’ll have 7 bracelets in all? Is that what you’re saying?”
“Oh… well, not with bracelets. I’d have way more than that. But with math, I would only have 7.”
Well, who I am to argue with that kind of logic? After all, leaving the wipes out of the diaper bag was sheer genius.
And spelling must be the prized jewel of the school system this year, because both of my kids will argue to their death that they are spelling words correctly. I know, my spelling bee championships and medals earned mean nothing to these academic whizzes, but you’d think they’d at least throw me a bone every now and again, just to keep me feeling like I can in some way measure up to their awesomeness.
My son was utterly convinced that the word “shart” was one of his spelling words this week. Shart. (For those that don’t know what a shart is, look it up in Urban Dictionary because I won’t bother disgracing this blog with such...messiness.) After looking over his words, I noticed the words “short” and “shark” were on the list. Surely he’d made a simple mistake and combined the two words together to come up with a rather unfortunate new word. But let’s not forget, he’s now smart and I’m now dumb. I was tired of arguing and, frankly, I wanted to smack the smug look of “Duh” off his face with a shovel.
“Fine, Cameron. Spell “shart” for me.”
“That’s shirt.”
“No, it’s not!” This was equal parts yelled and cried.
I decided the best way to handle this was to let him play this one out…. at school, in front of his peers. And I will not feel badly when his teacher chuckles and his friends snort. Because I lack the brains to know how to feel shame, right?
I could go on. Really I could. I’ve been explained what it means to lock a door, how to fix my phone (because those who have never owned a cell phone are the new experts), how to raise children (because those who have never had children are the new experts), how to cook a good meal, and how to better manage my time. The last one really rubbed me wrong, since I not only manage my time, but the time of the ones calling my time management into question. They can’t even TELL TIME, for God’s sake! But pointing this all out is meaningless. They’re smart, I’m dumb. They’re right, I’m wrong.

Well, that’s fine by me. When I find myself wipeless, I’ll be forced to use a certain someone’s favorite shirt to tidy the baby’s bottom. And I have no problem giving out $7 instead of $13 when it’s time for the next book fair and the smart people want me to open my wallet to them. And I will no longer be ironing shirts for a particular little boy, only sharts. And since they’re so smart, I’m sure they’ll figure it all out eventually. Until then, I’ll just be sitting over there in the corner, pealing the wallpaper and trying to remember not to eat it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Raising Broken Children

            There are days when I forget how broken my children were when they came to live with us – days when I get to be a normal mom dealing with normal kid problems, like fighting over whose day it is to feed the dogs or who has to turn the light out because they were the last one in a room. There’s a part of me that smiles each time my kids don’t empty their pockets before their clothes go through the wash. And, although I may bark at them for it, I don’t mind stepping on thousands of Legos, silly bands, and barrettes as I walk from room to room. These are the things that kids do. They leave stuff out to be stepped on, send entire Kleenex boxes through the wash, and argue over light switches. And it makes me feel amazing inside.
            Then there are days when their broken pieces come a little bit unglued and their cracks begin to show. On those days, I do not feel like a normal mom dealing with normal kid problems. On those days, I’m reminded that parts of them are still broken and that they’re prone to shattering more easily than a “normal kid”.
            It’s often the small things that cause them to chip – their new, shiny beings that we worked so hard to polish up with pleases and thank yous, therapy sessions and reward charts, prayers and petitions. We put them in nice clothes and comb their hair until it glistens. We clip toe nails and remind them to stand up straight. They look the part. My kids look all new. They look so good that sometimes I forgot that when I raise my voice, my 6-year-old daughter will be unable to meet my eyes with hers and will hunch over, not with shame, but with fear. And my son can seem so friendly that you’d never expect him to pull out his own teeth when a child at school makes fun of the silver caps covering his less-than pearly whites due to being bottle fed soda throughout his baby years. It’s on those days that the small lines of their glued together parts are most evident.
            My 8-year-old has been suspended twice so far this year. Honestly, I had thought we were past this stage. After multiple suspensions at the end of Kindergarten (when he first came to us) and throughout first grade, we were pleasantly surprised to have no incidents in second grade. What a relief, I’d thought. Problem solved! But I was wrong. Because, you see, in his third grade class, there’s a boy that reminds him of a half-brother that he had to leave behind when he came to our home. A boy that was slightly older than him, whom he tried to emulate, despite the boy’s constantly bad behavior. All the long talks about being a leader and not a follower flew out the window this year in a desperate attempt to fit in, look cool, appear tough in front of this boy and his new classmates.
            My son stole a sweatshirt. He stole a sweatshirt and made up an elaborate story of how he earned the shirt by participating in a fundraiser. He stole the shirt, made up a story, and then wore it to school the next day. The poor boy who originally owned the item is in his class. (At least my kid is still somewhat stupid when it comes to his crimes.) After some more lying and lots of tears, followed by a suspension and a full weekend sitting at the table for a rousing rendition of “Read, Write, or Draw” for his grounding, I spent the better part of the next 4 weeks applying more glue to the lines and painting over the chips that had started to show.
            It wasn’t long after that I received another phone call from the school because my son had made “terroristic threats”. For the love of all that is good and holy…. As if on cue, my kid started his routine cover-up. Lie, blah blah blah, lie, lie, blah, lie, blah blah, lie, lie lie. After wanting to bang our heads off the walls, my husband and I were finally able to get the whole story. Cameron was caught cheating on a worksheet (it has to be noted, the worksheet was for fun, not even for a grade!). But he wasn’t caught by the teacher. No, he was caught by the sweet little girl whose paper he was copying not-so-sneakily. Naturally, she threatened to tell. And naturally, my son threatened to kill her family. I’m not even kidding.
            How do I explain to a little girl’s parents that my son is not, in fact, a sociopath, but that he was trained to lie, cheat, and steal at all costs in order to survive and escape beatings from his first dad? How do I get a freaked out mom to understand that her child wasn’t the only one threatened – that my child was also threatened by a large man with a belt that if he ever told on him for his many indiscretions, he’d “get it again”? And even if he did tell the truth to the nice people in his life that were meant to help him, he’d be sent to live with yet another family, leaving all his belongings behind, changing schools again, only to find that they didn’t want him either? How do I show her that I’m so so sorry and that I don’t condone my son’s words, without it seeming like I’m making excuses for him?
            Because I won’t make excuses. I can’t let him think that it’s OK to do wrong because of previous wrongs done to him. And I won’t let him turn others into victims and perpetuate a cycle of violence, theft, and lies.
            But there I sat, grounding and re-gluing him at the same time, wondering when my broken kid will just get the chance to be normal. No labels, nothing to live up to, no one to please, no one to fear – just be able to live without the cracks and chips. He broke into my thoughts to show me something he’d written during his long sit at the table. It was his autobiography, something they’d just learned about in school that week. It was only one page -double-spaced and written in large letters, but I could see that it was his best handwriting.
            It read something like this:
            “Once upon a time, I lived with a bad family. I was scared and had belt marks on me. And then one day I moved to a new family with a Mom and a Dad that are nice to me. They don’t let me do bad things and teach me to be good. I love my new life very much. The End.”

            While it may not be the end, it just may be a beginning. And in that moment, one small crack healed.

Monday, November 10, 2014


     There is a chance that I'm dying. It's sad but true, I'm afraid. With each passing night of less and less sleep, I've become pretty certain that everyone living in my house is an assassin . In fact, I'm so tired, I just had to Google how to spell "assassin" because after staring at it blankly for five minutes, I was pretty sure it couldn't possibly be spelled Ass-Ass-In, and yet, it is. I feel that there's a joke in there somewhere but I'm honestly too tired to look for it. Maybe it's the adult version of the Hokey Pokey or something... you put your assassin, you put your assassout, you put your assassin and you shake it all about? I don't know, but shaking anything sounds like way too much work right now. Anyways, these people, these ones who claim to love me, are stealing away my very sanity - my health and wellness - one sleepless night at a time. Here are the reasons why I cannot sleep (in no particular order):

1) Throw up - And let me assure you, my oldest son's bed looked exactly as if he had thrown the puke up into the air and it landed, well, everywhere. I literally had to shower down the shower after he washed himself off because it was just that gross and sticky and omnipresent. Even after it was gone, it still lingered. It was like the house had soaked up the smell and just kept sweating it out in waves. Never having been one to get sick over someone else's vomit, this one did me in.

2) Bed-wetting - "I had an accident." Of course you did. It was only natural that after a full year of no accidents, the moment I fall asleep after days / weeks of barely any sleep at all that someone in my house would pee the bed. I blame myself for having believed that these days were behind us. Hello, Rubber Sheets... Welcome back, my friend.

3) Dogs - The wind changed! The house creaked! The neighbor dog is out! CAR! The garbage settled in the can! The baby stirred! CAR! I found a bone! I lost my bone! I dreamed of a bone! CAR! CAR! TRUCK! CAR! CAR!!! Yeah... why don't you go see that car up close? Real close.....

4) Trains - Oh my gosh, I can't even talk about it. All night. Every night. Trains chugging and choo-chooing until I want to use dynamite as ear plugs... but I can't, because then I couldn't hear the baby......

5) The Baby - Don't be fooled by his shy grin and ability to pull you in with his cute little sticking-out-his-tongue trick. Because my baby has decided that he doesn't want to be a baby. No. He wants to be a pancake. A regular flap jack. I know this because every night, all night, he flips from his back to his front, seeming to forget that he doesn't know how to flip back over yet. So he screams. I go in and flip him back over. He instantly flips back to his stomach. I go in and flip him back over. And we do it again and again and again and again, me pretending to be a giant spatula to his pancakeness. We do this until I finally give in and put him in bed with me, which would be fine if we didn't share our bed with a dog and a husband....


7) The Toddler - I hear sheets crinkling.... and a mattress creaking.... and stuffed animals falling to the ground. Wait for it..... "DADDY!!!" (Daddy is still snoring and farting and ignoring. Mommy is forced to punch Daddy until she is wide awake and he is barely conscious. Daddy goes into the toddler's room.) "MOMMY!" (I enter and Daddy leaves.) "DADDY!!!" Seriously, kid, this is not the time to play this game. (Choking sobs from toddler wakes baby. Mommy's heart starts to pound....)

8) Anxiety - Oh my gosh.... I just know someone's gonna wake me up as soon as I fall asleep.... No they won't, just calm down and close your eyes. Ok, I'll try..... crap, my heart won't stop pounding.... seriously, I really think someone's gonna wake me up again. You're being paranoid. Just go to sleep and it'll all be fine. But what if the baby flips over and I can't hear him because of the train and then he suffocates in the vomit that is EVERYWHERE? Dude, you really need some sleep, you're not making any sense. I KNOW!!!!!!!

Knock Knock. "Mom, are you awake?" come the whispers from beyond the door......

Assassins. All of them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

They Call Me And

     I look forward to the day when I will be able to have conversations with my children. Actual conversations. Enough of this mind-numbing, one-sided, half-manical crap! I spend the weekdays narrating to Wyatt (5-months-old) all the ways that I'm going to eat his piggy toes and change his diapy-doos with the wipey-poos while my weekends are spent encouraging Isaac (2-years-old) to use his big-boy bed and to go pee pee on his big-boy potty, in between bouts of screaming for him to stop standing on the edge of high furniture or from jumping off of the stairs or to stop yanking the dogs' tails. My time with Taylor and Cameron (6- and 8-years-old) consumes the rest of my waking moments. This time is spent answering. Answering school questions, personal questions, random questions, questions that no one will ever need answers to nor care about ever in the history of the world because they simply DON'T MATTER!
     You know the questions I'm talking about, don't you, Mamas? They start the second that school bus door opens and they don't stop until the kids are sound asleep. (Exceptions to this include the sleep talker -- which both of my older kids are, lucky me. The ramblings continue even in the dead of night. There are times I feel that God is punishing me for some wicked deed I must've committed in a past life.)
     "Mom, why is the word "BINGO" on that truck?"
     "And Mom, why does that man have only one leg?"
     "And Mom, why did you give me peanut butter and jelly two days in a row?"
     "And Mom, what's that truck doing?"
     "And Mom, why are your boobs so big?"
     "Mom, what does this spell.... 9ostoffice?" (Said with a mouth full of food as the baby is crying... and for the love of God, why is there a number in there? And if we're gonna spell Post Office, can we include the space so I at least stand a chance of getting it right?)
     "And Mom, does the neighbor like our dogs?"
     "And Mom, what's for dinner? I know you said it already (5 minutes ago) but I forgot."
     And Mom, And Mom, And Mom.....
     I'm not sure when my first name became And, but it has become annoyingly apparent that the short people think my given name does not suit me any longer, so they have taken it into their own hands to rename me something more appropriate. And. Frankly, I think it's just indicative of the fact that the cluster of things spewing from their mouths is just one long, run-on sentence, strung together by a series of Ands, one ridiculous question after another.
     Perhaps their questions only go to show how intelligent they think that I am. After all, only a highly intelligent (psychic) person would know why the man we've never seen before has one leg or what the truck is doing or what is going through the minds of our neighbors. But I would bet the more likely explanation is that there is simply no filter on the mouths of these people that call me And. Every little thing that pops into their heads sequentially pops out of their mouths, their own ability to challenge their minds with silly things such as Rational Thought, Observation, or Problem Solving is shrugged off with a snicker. Oh my gosh, think for myself? Is she serious?? That woman, And, is Cra-Cra!
     So tonight, I shoved the little one in my husband's arms, answering 50 more unnecessary questions while I quickly ran up the stairs for some much needed alone time. I sat on the edge of my bed and contemplated my own piggy toes... there's no longer any time for painting, exfoliating, or lotioning the poor things, so there really is no worry of someone wanting to eat my tootsies. But in the seconds it took me to examine my aching feet, the questions continued to come through the door, loudly, so as to be heard above my screaming silence. I mumbled a few acknowledgements, even to the questions that I didn't really listen to. I think my ears actually hurt more than my feet.... So what do I do when the big ones fall asleep and the little one is finally content? I watch family videos on my cell phone.
     Their voices, cries, and screams sound sweeter when I can turn the volume down and when I don't actually have to respond to each And, wail, or scream. In those very precious, very few quiet moments, my arms actually ache for the baby, my heart aches for the toddler, and my mind aches for the big kids. It's true. I am Cra-Cra. But I look forward to tomorrow and all of it's ramblings.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pieces Of Us

     I am struggling to write this post to you. It's always been my desire to be honest and utterly raw with my words - no holding back, no judgement, no faking motherhood and all that comes with it. But due to my circumstances, I walk a fine line. There are so many things I want to tell, yet they're not mine to say. Times when I can show you my reactions but I can't tell you all of what caused them. Times that I can share my feelings of fear or anxiety, but I'm forced to leave out what's placed those feelings inside. Something that I've always known to be true, however, is that when I give you a problem - you faithful group of beautiful people - I am blown away with support. Prayers, comments, encouragement - all of it has stood alongside our family and has shown us the love of Christ so perfectly that living scared seems almost ridiculous. I'm so tired of standing on the fine line and writing fearfully. But even now.... I don't know what to say. So I will start here.
     Isaac will be two-years-old this week. When I sit there and watch him - how he interacts, the sentences he puts together, his grasp on humor, the empathy he exhibits when he sees someone cry (and the wisdom to know when someone is truly upset or when they're crying for no good reason... which was evidenced yesterday when Taylor dissolved into a fit of tears and screaming for being sent to her room and Isaac pointed his finger at her and sternly said, "Stop it, Taylor! Go!") - but when I sit there and truly see him, I feel eternally grateful for the ability to be the woman he calls Mama. Even though I can't take biological credit for his awesomeness, I claim every sarcastic look, stubborn moment, and loving touch.
     There are times when Isaac tries so hard to be independent. He wants to be one of the big kids in the worst kind of way. "Go 'way, Mama, I do it." He wants to climb the stairs on his own, open his own granola wrapper, and tear everything apart to see how it works. He's even taken this as far as wanting to parent Wyatt. He sees me struggling to hold the baby and do the dishes at the same time, so he offers to help, just like a little man. "I hold it, Mama, I get it," as he reaches for Wyatt. Isaac sees a need and tries to fill it, no questions asked. In this, I see Cameron. Even in the times when he tries to do something that is just a bit too big for his little body, the frustration is more than evident. The desire to know how things work, to want to be helpful, to be useful, but the intense anger when his ability isn't good enough for a task - it's as if he is Cameron's doppelganger.
     Then there are the times when things are going well. Everyone is calm. Everyone is getting along. Life is good. But then Isaac asks for something he wants and is told 'no'. I can't even tell you, but the drama is just below that of a menstruating teenage girl. He throws himself down, he screams until he can't breathe and chokes on his sobs, he holds his face with his hands in sheer dismay as he lays on the sidewalk/store floor/next to the car/pew of the church. You name it, he has flung himself down onto it! And as I sat there, wondering where in the world he could have learned such behavior, it hit me as plain as the nose on my face. Isaac is Taylor. Living in our home, we now have the reigning Drama King and Queen of Pennsylvania. Thankfully, he also inherited his sister's charm and utter adorableness, otherwise, we may have left the both of them on the sidewalk/store floor/next to the car/pew in church, etc.
     This weekend, my sister-in-law commented on Isaac's fearlessness. And let me tell you, something has to be said for a child, who has yet to turn two, that can scale an entire chain-link fence in less than 10 seconds! It's really no wonder that Isaac flings himself onto everything, because he literally has no fear of pain. There's no idea of danger that plagues him, no worry of consequences at all - just trust that he will be OK. And this, an attribute that is altogether beautiful and utterly terrifying, this is from my husband. It must have been from all those months of throwing Isaac's infant body 10 feet in the air to get him to smile, or letting Isaac fling himself backwards from Pat's big arms, only to be caught at the last second as he broke into a fit of giggles. Isaac always felt safe. He knew what strong arms felt like and he never doubted for a second that those arms would be there to catch him.
     In all ways, Isaac is a Costa. A name is just a name, but he is part of the Us that I've come to love so fiercely.
     Sadly, being part of our family isn't enough anymore. I thought that it was for a while. I thought that if I buried my head far enough in the sand and let myself be washed away by the lies that I would be able to pretend that this was enough - that our weekends with him would ensure that he grows up to love God. That my presence as his mother on the weekends would provide him enough security and love for the rest of his week. That my husband's strength would keep him safe. But it doesn't. It can't. Over the past few weeks, I've watched my baby boy with sadder eyes than before. He's anxious. He's aggressive. He's clingy. He's confused. When I lay with him before nap time, he holds onto me so tightly that little finger marks are left behind in my skin, long after he has drifted off.  He hates to leave us.
     There are people in his life that say that he's a boy - he shouldn't play with dolls, shouldn't be cuddled, shouldn't be given that kind of love. And there are people in his life that believe that discipline should be harsh and painful in order for it to be remembered. There are also people in his life that are looking out for their own well-being instead of his. People that are showing him violence, promiscuity, negative treatment of women, and illegal behavior.
     My baby is no longer a baby. He's a little boy. He has little boy eyes and little boy ears. He sees and he hears and he feels. He knows what it is to feel safe, which is why it hurts so much to know that he now knows what it is to be fearful. For as much as I look at this little life and see pieces of each of Us, I'm equally and painfully aware of the marks being left by the others. We were given the opportunity to save one child the grief of being exposed to so many things.... but alas, the system has failed him just like it did our other kids. We now only save children after they've been damaged and shattered and those pieces of Us can no longer be found.
     I will not be turning this post into something more than what it is. There will be no positive turn at the end or hearty chuckle to be had. I won't even begin to degrade the severity of this situation in order to make my blog more comfortable to read. I do, however, hope that discomfort moves you to pray for my child and all children in this predicament. I hope that it moves you to pray for our system. I hope that it moves you to pray for those that cause harm instead of good. Because this post reflects my circumstances, not my Spirit. The situation looks desperate and sounds desperate and feels unbearable.... but my Spirit reminds me that God bears what I cannot.
     For the small lot of you that are closer to this situation than others, I ask that you do not share this post on your Facebook wall. Instead, remember to be watching and listening, always attentive to what you see when you are out and about. If you see a child, any child, in need, be the one to help. Don't assume that someone else will step in and save the day. It just may be that it is my child and all his scattered pieces of Us that you end up saving. Pray, Friends. Pray, Watch, Listen, and most importantly, Do.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Sleepless Mama's Joy

     I am suddenly aware that my life consists of little more than putting people to sleep. Day in and day out, I assist in nap schedules, bed time routines, and midnight soothings. We eat our nighttime snacks, we say our prayers, we remind short people to brush their teeth, we put on footie pajamas, we sing the songs and we read the books... Please, don't misunderstand... I'm not complaining! There are worse things in the world than making sure your family gets their rest - Afterall, without adequate sleep, there will be no learning in school. And without the learning in school, there will be no graduating from high school. And without graduation, there will be no college, and no job, and no moving out of my house someday. Trust me when I say that it is with the greatest of pleasures that I ensure bedtime happens and that it happens well in our home!
     My one question, however, is this: When do I sleep? A question that was especially difficult to answer on this particular weekend. With all 4 kids in tow and a husband that was sick and cranky (in a way that only a husband can truly be), I waded through a sleepless fog, trying to break up sibling spats and clean up toddler messes and change umpteen diapers. But despite my best efforts, it was apparent that naps were in order - for all of them. But you can't call them "naps" and get the result you want, oh no! This isn't my first rodeo, Friend. This is the time to pull out the psychology degree and convince the little ones to take a nap without them knowing they've been fooled into sleeping. Phrases like, "You don't have to take a nap or anything, gosh, no! Just take the tablet to your room and play real quietly, maybe on your bed, so that I can get the babies to sleep." Meanwhile, I spray the house with lavender-scented Febreeze and let Rock-a-bye Baby play loudly over the baby monitor. Ten minutes later, the big kids and Husband are down for the count and it's just me and the little ones left (although Benedryl works better for the Hubs than Febreeze, I gotta say).
      Getting all the other kids to sleep is a walk in the park, however, compared to the toddler. Isaac has developed an internal clock that tells him its naptime - yet, this internal clock fights with his internal need to not sleep... ever. These two battle it out all the while creating an increasingly grumpy Tasmanian Devil that runs amok, throwing puzzle pieces and screaming at the top of his lungs. I watch as my cuddly, funny, lovable little boy turns into Satan incarnate over the course of the battle, until finally, and blissfully, he surrenders to sleep. This comes with a price, generally for me as the Mama. This weekend, I chose to pay this bill with a little thing called creativity, Folks.
     Just as the terror of Sleepy Isaac was in full force, I laid down on his big boy bed and cuddled up with one of his stuffed animals. When Isaac poked my face, I pretended to snore. This made him laugh hysterically and, unfortunately, caused him to poke my face repeatedly and with increasing firmness. I learned quickly to tone back the snoring so that he would get bored, which he did. (Heh, two-year-olds are so gullible.) I deliberately rolled away from him and curled up once again. I heard small feet climbing on his truck to get onto the bed with me and I then felt his warm breath as he whispered into my ear, "Mama?" I whispered back that Mama was sooo sleepy and she needed a tuck-in. I asked him to get me the blanket, which he did. I asked him to cover me up, which he did. I asked him to kiss me goodnight, which he did. He kissed my lips, my cheeks, my hair, my leg, and my elbow. I then asked him to read me a story. He pulled his book over and said his 1-2-3's, which are part of a different book, but I didn't argue. And when I felt we had reached a level of calmness needed for the final stage, I swooped in with the big guns.
     "Isaac, come cuddle Mama to put her to sleep, ok?" And that little guy didn't even know what hit him. He cuddled up to me and patted my back over and over, saying, "A'night, Mama. A'night, Mama." I had my eyes closed, but I could hear the yawn, that sweet baby yawn that makes getting tired sound so amazing. His head began to lower onto my shoulder and I knew it was only a matter of seconds before I had won. With one final motion, Isaac crawled onto my chest, laid down, and looked at me with heavy, sleepy eyes.... and then he farted. Long and loud. He smiled at me sleepily and whispered, "I poopin." And then he put his head on my shoulder and instantly fell asleep. I laid there for a while, trapped, holding my breath as long as I could before the need for air overtook me. And then I realized what had happened. I had been dutch-ovened, toddler style. It was he who had won the battle, not I.
     Luckily, the baby is still too young to win battles with this Mama. Once I was able to weasel my way out from underneath Isaac, I took advantage of Wyatt's need to nurse, knowing that he would be out cold after 10 minutes. And naturally, I was right. That doesn't mean that he didn't get his win later that night when he and Isaac tag-teamed me by waking up seven times in seven hours. Seven in Seven. There was one point when I put a baby down and looked at the clock (Oh, us Mother's, we know that clock. We're addicted to that clock, aren't we?) only to realize that I had slept for a mere 4 minutes before the next baby woke up wailing. And thanks to the Benedryled Hubs, I was on duty all night. Well, all except for the 5th time. The 5th time involved me punching him in the back twice and whisper-yelling, "NO! I won't do it again! YOU! YOUR TURN!!!" And he did, waking up the other baby as he went. It was a magical night.
     But this I can say, no sarcasm involved, is that one of the brightest and most beautifullest gems in my Motherhood crown is rocking my babies to sleep each night. There is nothing more peaceful and delicious than smelling that freshly-bathed cherub aroma while they rest their chubby cheeks on my chest and gaze up with droopy eyelids at one last attempt to stay awake before finally giving in to sleep. And I love that look. It reminds me that these little ones just want to ensure that Mama's there - that they're safe - before letting go and sleeping peacefully, like only a baby can. It is actually a privilege each night to lull them into the best sleep that they'll ever have in their lives. A sleep that is Ambien-free, stress-free, nightmare-free, worry-free, and carefree. In a few short years they will be bogged down with homework, drama with friends, heartaches, jobs, bills, household chores, and babies of their own that will need their help to fall asleep at night. And in that moment of rocking their own freshly-bathed cherubs to sleep, they will remember me, just as your babies will remember you. And all our sleepless nights will finally be worth their weight in gold.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Pot Roast

     I love my kids.
     Let me try that again.
     I LOVE my kids!
     And I don't just mean the babies. And I don't just mean because of something good or lovely they did. And it's not a fake-it-till-you-make-it kind of love. Guys, like, I love them...even the crazy one (yes, you know who I'm talking about!). If someone ain't whooping out a heck of a Hallelujah right now, I'm pretty sure the mountains are gonna do it for you, because it appears that somewhere between swim lessons, homework, weekend visits, and kidney scares, a miracle has gone down and THIS Mama is on the receiving end! (In my mind there's literally a gospel choir in long, purple robes out there singing "Glory!" as the congregation shouts "Amen!" because I am in desperate need of some theatrical rejoicing right now!)
     But seriously, it's funny how love can sneak up on you all of a sudden. It can happen so slowly and gradually that you're not even aware that it was there the whole time. I remember when I first started dating my husband. We were just hanging out, really - I don't even know if you could call it dating. But one day I woke up and I just knew.... I loved him. It wasn't butterflies or a crush, but a love that took it's time. Something that grew out of a friendship, something that came on without me even noticing because of how subtly my heart had been changing. I've never had microwave love. The only loves I've ever known, the only really good ones anyways, have all been developed crock-pot style. They've simmered slowly for long periods of time, warming me from the inside out, not the other way around.
     Yet, when the foster care system handed me kids and two seconds later asked me to keep them forever and love them unconditionally, I found myself looking at these crazy little strangers and wishing for a pot roast instead of a Hot Pocket for a family. I never got to get to know my older kids as they grew inside my belly for 9 months; Never got to anxiously await each prenatal appointment and their upcoming arrivals. I needed more time. I needed time to court them and get to know them without the pressure of having to make it all work overnight with people that were already set in their ways... ways that I didn't particularly care for. I needed time to fall in love with my children. And after two and a half years, I feel as though I should re-propose to them. Will they take me to be their mother? Because I think I'm finally ready to commit, not just legally, but emotionally... completely... with my whole heart.
     I've noticed a few changes creeping up on me over the last few months. One morning after they'd gone to school, I caught smiling as I remembered something funny Cameron had said. And another day I laughed out loud at an utterly ridiculous joke that Taylor told, and it didn't feel forced or awkward in the slightest. Someone said to me earlier this week, "Can you even imagine those kids if they hadn't come to you?" And for the first time, I couldn't picture my life without them. As a mother, you hate to say you're surprised when these things happen.... but those of you that know my story, that truly know our family's story.... you know how I struggled, how we all struggled, to connect and love and be OK with our thrown together, emotional roller coaster existence. You know my resentments and bitterness, all the uncomfortable and unmotherly things that I thought and said. And now, I sit here wondering how worse off my life would be if I didn't have these four little people calling me Mama.
     I'm so glad I don't have to find that out. I'm so glad that God gave me my pot roast.

     PS, that being said, yesterday, while Isaac was here for his weekend visit, I found myself on the unlucky end of a particularly rank and mucky diaper. Trying to engage him in a helping task so that he would be more compliant during this extremely nauseous task, i asked him to hold a wipe for me while I got his diaper undone and legs pulled up.
     "I hep you, I hep you!" his little voice said to me.
     "You're a good helper, Isaac, thank you... hold the wipe for Mama, ok?" I replied.
     "I hep you, I hep you, Mama."
     And then Isaac helped.... by attempting to wipe his own wiener. Sadly, the wipe was in the other hand. He, too, realized this and promptly switched hands to give it another try, smearing the poop onto his leg in the process.
     "Eewww," he said.
     "Don't. Touch. Anything. Please, baby. Let me wipe your hands first."
     To his amazing credit, he smiled at me and kept his hands in the air. I finished with the diaper and used about 13 wipes to mop up the goo that saturated his chubby little fingers. He sat up and kissed me square on the lips as I was carrying him to the sink to wash his hands. I thought it was sweet at first, but I now realize that he did this to distract me. Because while I was caught off guard by this beautifully sweet gesture, he took his index finger and shoved it into my mouth, despite my slightly delayed but firmly pursed lips.
     Yup.... there it was. Poop. It must've still been between his fingers or underneath his fingernails, because it was there. In my mouth.
     Do you want to know what love looks like? It looks like turning your head away from your child before you puke... that's what love looks like, Friends. And I love my kids.

Friday, September 12, 2014

It's The End Of The World As We Know It

     Friends, I'm tired. TIRED.
     This week, Life happened. She walked in, kicked my family and me around, and then stood there, watching to see how we would respond. And for a few minutes, it kinda felt like the end of the world. But sometimes the end of the world is really just the beginning of a new one. Oh, it doesn't feel like it though, not in the slightest. I can look back through my 32 years and see lots of Ends that felt so painful that I was pretty sure I couldn't go on. A failed exam, a break-up, getting fired, a terrible fight with my husband, fertility struggles, watching my family suffer, losing a child... it all feels like the end of the world. And it is. If you really think about it, each life catastrophe changes us; it changes our worlds, the way we respond to new situations and people, the way we approach future challenges, whether we choose to fear or embrace. It literally ends the way we used to be, the way we used to live. Life changes our vision and the way we see things. We may start out with 20/20 vision but end up needing a prescription for our sight after going through a bout with cancer or the death of a parent; our end of the world experiences making it hard to get out of bed the next day or cause us to question why we're even here at all.
     What's your prescription for when Life deals you a hand so unfair that you can't see straight? Binge-eating? Alcohol? Chain-smoking? Lashing out at your family? Breaking things? Self-loathing? Or maybe you're like me. Maybe you tend to get depressed by replaying the troublesome situation over and over and over in your head, sure that you missed the one detail that will re-set your vision; sure that you'll find a way to solve this problem, this End. If you've tried any of these, you're already painfully aware that they are awesomely ineffective tools. Because ultimately what we want is to change our situation, not put on glasses to help us see clearer. We want to go back to the time when Life was amazing and wonderful and our vision was perfect. We want death to be undone, words to be taken back, second chances given. Anything but The End. 
     This week, my kid got sick. Kidney-problem sick. My kid got sick the same week that I was struggling with my husband in our marriage. My kid got sick and I struggled with my marriage the same week that my baby had a four-day fever. The same week my back went out and I slept on a cot in my son's hospital room caring for him and my fevered baby while being hunched over at a 45 degree angle in pain. The same week my daughter's old behaviors started back up because she didn't get to be the one sick and have me give her my hunched over, undivided attention. The same week my mom tells me that my grandma has skin cancer and that my brother's custody battle for his precious little boy has taken yet another blow. The same week my husband called the hospital to tell me that his company is closing down and that we will be without any income or health insurance by Christmas.
     End of the world? Yep. It really is. It's the end of the way I felt about life before these things happened. My vision has been altered and I don't feel that I can see as clearly as I once could. It's a lot harder to see the next steps to take or even which direction to go. It's blurry when I try to use my ole faithful prescription of replaying situations, trying to find a way to fix things, to change them somehow. It doesn't work, and the End has come. 
     But again, sometimes the End of the world is just the Beginning of something new. I will never look at my son's health in the same light. I will always worry about him getting sick, worry about his treatments failing, worry about seeing that fear on his face again. But my kid got to come home. MY kid left that hospital on his own two feet while we watched other kids, sicker kids, being pushed through the hospital play rooms in wheelchairs as they passed the time waiting for a donor. You see, my world of healthy-kidneyed children ended, but at the same time, a world of gratitude began. 
     And my back pain may cause me to want to scream and ask "Why Me?!?" as I shake my fists (ever so carefully, as not to twist my spine) in frustration. But something about being brought to my knees in pain reminds me that I'm supposed to be there way more often than I am anyways. Pain is the end of our worlds in so many ways... but it's also the beginning of a life that needs to be slowed down a bit, a life that requires a little more rest than it was getting, a life that feels such thankfulness for doctors that can help alleviate some of the pain. And, oh my heavens, being without an income and without health insurance for our family, especially our little baby.... yes, this DOES feel like the end of the world! Right before Christmas? Right in the middle of all our kids' birthdays? Right when I make the choice to leave my job to stay at home with our little ones and help them with all things they've needed from me since they beginning? It is most definitely the End! And this End will most definitely be followed by a Beginning... a new job, with new health insurance, new hours, and new routines. 
     Yes, my vision definitely blurred for a "little minute" as my son would say, but I got a new prescription for my eyes. And this prescription is a crazy thing called faith. I can't see the answers for my son's health, but I have faith that he will be alright. I can't fix my brother's situation, but I have complete and utter faith that God will keep my nephew in the palms of His hands. I can't fix my daughter's behaviors, but I have faith that God can make her so confident that she will never have to rely on someone else's attention to make her feel worthy. And my marriage may have it's problems, my God, it does! But FAITH lets me hand the whole, hot, messy package over to Someone that knows just how to fix hot messes. In fact, it's His specialty. 
     I'm not saying the new lives we get dealt are better than the old ones. Because sometimes they are and sometimes they're not. But this is the one thing in Life of which I'm positive: No matter what the vision, the prescription is the same. "Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2). 
     God is the author of Life, the writer of all my Beginnings and all of my Ends. And he not only writes my Life story with all its twists and turns, but He also perfects my imperfect faith. Because He loves me and because He knows I'll do a pretty crap job of it all on my own, He sent me an example to follow. Someone to go through His own Ends and Beginnings; Someone who was also kicked around by Life. And if I keep my eyes there... if you keep your eyes there... we will have us some amazing Beginnings, Friends.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Little Boys

     There's something about little boys that makes my heart go pitter-patter. (I just went to go check on Baby Wyatt in his bed and came back.... upon reading that first line over, I feel the urgent need to clarify that I'm not a pedophile. K? Carry on.) But little boys and their rambunctiousness, growling, ability to make car sounds, and contentedness to just run full speed into nothingness is what makes then so special.
     Cameron, unlike his sister, can amuse himself with a tennis ball, a few toothpicks, and a paper towel roll.... for hours. I'm not kidding. The boy goes into his room and comes back with some sort of creation made from garbage, Lego pieces, and disassembled toy cars. EVERY TIME! I love this about him. Just yesterday he showed me a couch that he designed from a paper plate. A paper plate. And no, it wasn't a clean paper plate (naturally), and yes, he did spill cookie crumbs across two rooms as he brought his creation to my spot in the living room. But he was just so dang proud of this couch that I couldn't say anything to discourage such creativity. I mean, isn't that why we have three big dogs, anyway? They'll eventually stumble upon that trail of cookie crumbs and think they've died and gone to Doggy Heaven.
     Yes, creativity in sons is amazing. As is their ability to see my pre-coffee need for quietness in the morning and behave accordingly. In fact, I used to cringe when my bladder would wake me in wee hours of the morning...that time when you know that, if you hurry, you can be back in bed and still get another half hour of sleep. Not having an on-suite master bath, that meant leaving the safety of my own room to venture out and meet the Little People before I was ready to start conversing. You mamas know what I mean.... no coffee, still groggy, not ready to talk. I'm basically good for grunts and grunts only during those first few minutes. But that was when my daughter's room was upstairs with us. She would listen my sheets crinkle as I prepared to get up from my bed and run across the hall to the bathroom, undetected. But there she was, every time, always quicker than I. No sooner would I have turned the door handle and Taylor would be right there, begging for someone to talk to (probably because she sleeps a total of 4 hours a night and has been awake for hours just waiting for attention).
     "Hi, Mom, how'd you sleep!?!? Did you have any dreams? I dreamed of strawberries and ponies and I made up a song to tell you about the dream, but then I forgot it and had to make up a new one, but then I forgot that one, too, so I sang Jesus Loves Me until I remembered that I love to color.... can I have my markers now? Oh, wait! Let me sing Jesus Loves Me to you, first, and then I'll color you a picture of strawberries and ponies and, HEY! I remembered my dream, wanna hear it?!?!"
     Oh. My. Gosh.
     I just wanted to pee..... and now I see that I will be forced to purchase adult diapers if this living situation continues. Thankfully, God granted me with a baby and we had to move Taylor's room to the first floor in order to free up her old room for the nursery. Now, it's me, the babies, and Cameron upstairs. And when I feel that urge to pee, I can now open my door freely, because my son is just as groggy by morning as he is creative by day. He sees me, nonchalantly waves me a "hello" and says, "Hey, Mom", to which I respond, "Hey, Cam", and we go our separate ways. It's practically magical. This is why I love little boys!
     When Isaac comes on the weekends, we get to see an entirely different side of boys. The I'm-loud-crazy-and-wild-but-can't-be-bothered-to-care side of boys. This weekend, we had set our sights set on going to the Science Center in Pittsburgh. However, due to a Pirate's game, we were unable to find parking and decided to go to the Ballocity Zone at Fun Fore All. The Ballocity Zone is a massive indoor climbing structure where kids can go through small passages that scale higher and higher, slam into netting, scream loudly while going down the tube slides, and bash themselves off of hanging mats.... oh, and there are lots of balls. Everywhere. These foam balls come flying at you from air guns as well as from a huge volcanic structure in the center of the Ballocity Zone that fills with balls and erupts when a button is pushed, sending balls raining down with a loud "WHOOSH!". Needless to say, this is the perfect place for a rabid little man like Isaac.
     Once he moved past the initial terror of large kids shoving their way past him as "WHOOSH"ing occurred every few minutes, he began to fully submerge himself into his surroundings. I took him into the Zone and he walked straight up to the ball volcano, clenched his fists, and he growled/shouted/yelled with all his might for about 10 seconds straight. This was before he ran head first, as fast as his chubby legs allowed, into a netted wall. This was then followed by about 10 more seconds of growling/shouting/yelling (naturally). At one point, he bit a chunk out of a ball with a crazed look in his eye that sent a small girl running in the other direction. This.Is.My.Son. And he sometimes resembles Animal from The Muppets, which is ironic, because he used to have a t-shirt with that very character on it. I LOVE little boys! They're rugged, dirty, primal beings are just like little cavemen and it's AWESOME.
     This same little caveman proceeded to pee all over me and his bedroom floor later that evening. And when I say pee, I mean pee. It was as if he'd saved all the water from his body for just the moment that I tried to wrangle him after his bath, before I'd had the chance to diaper and PJ him. Sure, I shouldn't have left him for those two minutes, diaperless.... but he looked stinking so cute blowing his toy trumpet, huge grin on his face, naked as a jay bird. He walked over to me and, just as I lifted him up to set him on the bed, he let go of all that was within him. I promptly set him down and ordered him to stand still while I grabbed the towel... but what you have to know about 22-month-olds is that they can't follow you with their eyes. Oh, no. They follow you with their entire bodies. So, Isaac proceeded to pee in an arch as he watched me move swiftly across the room. I sighed in exasperation because, honestly, what was there to do but stand there and let him finish? Once there was enough urine on the floor to legally call his room a parking garage, he threw his hands in the air and said, "Uh oh!" (Ya think, kid?) After I had sufficiently sopped up the mess with his bath towel, I ran to the bathroom to deposit the towel in the tub.
     And that's when Isaac shut the door and locked me out of the nursery. I mean, seriously.... you can't get this kind of action with a girl! We spent the next few minutes with me pleading the almost-toddler to "open the door for Mama", in which he alternated telling me "OK!" and "No!", (words I'm still unconvinced he can distinguish between). This is why all mamas should keep a tool kit on every floor...if you have boys in the house, you're going to need a screw driver and to pop open locked doors! And when the door opened, there he was, still standing in his naked glory, smiling widely. "Mama!" he exclaimed as he gave me a big ole birthday suit hug. This is why I love little boys.
     When I was pregnant, I was positive that Wyatt was a girl. I'm saying that I was downright sure of it! Lo and behold, God saw fit to bless us with a third boy (much to my 6-year-old daughter's chagrin.). And this little fellow has been nothing short of a Mama's Boy, which I secretly love and hope he never outgrows! But today, true to form, he showed his boy-ness during diaper time. It was a particularly messy deed he'd done, and I thought that I had put the diaper far enough out of his reach. I thought. But it seems little Wyatt has anything but little arms. In his excitement to have his diaper off, he began flailing those Gumby limbs with all his might and, with a wet "splat", his left fist landed right into the gooey diaper. There was a fine mist of baby poo that reached a foot in every direction. Startled by this mist, Wyatt then smacked himself in the face with that same brownish-orange fist. He ginned, gurgled, and then belly laughed. And as I sat there, cleaning crap from my baby's eye lashes, I thought about how it only took a poop splash to make this kiddo crack up. He can literally find humor in anything, including bodily functions. And this is why I love little boys.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Best Of Times

     The first week of school is always the best of times and the worst of times for both parents and their kiddos. As mamas, we wait all summer for that magical day. The day when the shiny yellow buses will pull up to our homes and whisk our insufferable yet adorably clad children from our shoving arms and then babysit them for 8 whole hours.... for free. The day when we find ourselves standing quietly in our kitchens, alone yet joined with every other mother in the world, as we take a sip of coffee and finally feel hope in the thought that we may get to finish the entire cup without a single interruption. The day when we spend thoughtful amounts of time picking outfits for the next day, packing a variety of lunches that comply with the food pyramid, having a snack ready for the lovelies when they walk in the door after their hard day of learning, and then we feed them the delicious (yet nutritious) dinner that we actually had time to plan, prep, and cook.
     Our kids are equally as excited about the first week of school. The thought of getting away from their siblings and being around peers is thrilling where they are free to discuss deep things like action figures, rock collections, and dress shoes with a quarter-inch heel.... things that their families couldn't possibly understand. The promise of little to no homework is a dream come true as they get to know their yet-to-be-frazzled teachers, who are still wearing smiles and giving free passes to rules forgotten over those long summer months. Children are just as excited running to the bus as they are to be running from it at the end of the day, and the prospect of learning new things isn't "scary", "too hard", or "unfair". Yes, autumn is truly a magical time.
     But we all know that after autumn, there must always be a winter....
     It is almost with certainty that before the first snow fall (or maybe even by the third week of school?) things will start getting a bit.....hairy. Instead of meticulously picking out a fashionable yet practical outfit for each kiddo the night before school, we will be scurrying around in the morning looking for clean things (aka things that don't stink or stand up on their own) and that don't look hideous together. (And even if they do look hideous, we won't mind all that much.) Daughters will be sent to school wearing skirts on gym day, and sons will wear, with utter certainty, a white t-shirt on art day. Peanut butter and jelly will be eaten 5 days in a row because no one had time to do the shopping, and the food groups will get overtaken by Halloween candy, Christmas candy, Valentine's Day candy, and Easter candy. Dinner will turn into chicken patties and tater tots being scarfed down before running frantically out the door to fundraisers and sporting events.
     And if we think that we have it bad, let's remember our poor kids! We must keep in mind that their brains turned to oatmeal over the summer, and that will become painfully obvious to parents, teachers, and the children themselves as simple review questions take a nasty turn to something called "learning new things". Their world's will be shattered by new concepts named "geometry" and "grammar". Tears will be shed. Pencils will be thrown. Homework battles will ensue. Along with spelling words, our kiddos will also learn street smarts by winter. You know all those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you'll be packing? Yeah, there's not a chance in this world that they're eating them. They will have learned the handiness of trading or the sneakiness of throwing it away when they realize that everyone else's parent has also packed them a 5th PB&J that week. I doubt this will lead to a life of criminal activity or gang-related violence, but we'll never know for sure, will we?
     It's the first week of school and it's the best of times. So enjoy it. Every minute. If you're home, kick your heels up for a half hour (ok ok, an hour) and watch a T.V. show with a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Celebrate! You earned it after the summer you gave them. And if you're a mama working outside of the home, stop by that coffee shop on your lunch break and treat yourself to a second scone, because you don't have to spend those extra few minutes calling the sitter to see if she got the glue out of your daughter's hair, courtesy of her brother. Enjoy. Every. Second. And then, after week two is in full swing, put on your big girl panties and start doing your push ups. Because we all know that the craziness is about to hit the fan and we will want to be prepared. And we can do it! We MUST do it! Remember that no one ever died from PB&J, spelling tests, or forgetting to pack gym shoes. Give yourself (and your kiddos) a little bit of grace as the weeks trudge on and mop up the crap as it drops. It'll be OK, I promise you, from one crazed Mama to another. Just don't forget the coffee.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Mary / Martha Contraversy

     As a mother of four, it is utterly amazing just how little time I have. If I actually counted the exact minutes spent switching laundry, packing lunches, driving to sporting events, helping with homework, and speed-washing, well, everything, I'm pretty sure I'd realize that I'd get to the end of my day only to find that I've done a lot of quantity, but maybe not as much quality as I was hoping. In fact, I'm quite positive that's what I'd find. Instead of scrubbing the baseboards, I may run the broom over them (or move the couch in front of them!) and instead of folding laundry perfectly, I may settle for just finding the matches to the socks and forget folding the underwear entirely. Quantity. I actually have a name for this type of behavior. I call it Pulling A Martha. If you're not familiar with the Bible story of Mary and Martha, let me briefly introduce it to you.
     Jesus traveled to visit some of his friends one day, two sisters named (as you can guess) Mary and Martha. As the older sister, Martha was totally being all Type-A personality and organizing/cleaning/cooking like a mad woman. She wanted everything to be perfect (as we oldest children do) and she grew quite ticked off at her little sister who was relaxing out in the living room with Jesus, just listening to his stories and being an obvious youngest child. (Just see Alfred Adler's birth order studies if you don't believe me!) Mary didn't have a care in the world. She didn't mind if the floors were dusty (afterall, they were probably made of dirt anyway) and she didn't care if dinner had a 5-course menu or not. She would've been satisfied munching on some nuts and berries and just hanging out with her pal. As you can imagine, Martha stood there, probably up to her elbows in dirty dish water, preparing a "chat" she was planning to have with her sister as soon as she could get one free second to steal her away.... and she'd HAVE one free second if Mary would just get off her rear and help, right? (Can I get an Amen, any first born Mamas out there??)
     Well, Jesus, being the perceptive Christ that he was, recognized Martha's stressing out. He called her to come and chill with him for a while. And that's when Martha blurted out that she was quite annoyed that Jesus hadn't even bothered to send Mary in to help her so that she, too, could sit and relax and finally kick her feet up. But Jesus knew that the dishes weren't going anywhere. The food could simmer, the floors would wait. He just wanted to be with her.... like he was with Mary. It meant more to him to spend quality time with his friend than to have a quantity of chores done for him. He didn't want a palace to visit, a goose to eat, or a Lazy Boy 3000 recliner to sit in. He just wanted her time.
     And now here it is, the last weekend of summer vacation, and I find myself asking the question, Did I Pull A Martha for the last 3 months? Was I too focused on chores and getting through my enormous To Do list each day? Did I put my household before my home?
     I want so much to be able to say that everyday we had quality time. But I know that I'd be lying if I did. I know that I put laundry before tuck-ins and cooking before catching toads. And even when we did go on day outings to the beach and the park, was I too tired from my "quantities" to give my "qualities"? Did I have to be the outsider at the beach watching my children build the sand castle instead of joining in? Granted, I've had a newborn to care for, and perhaps some things are different now than they will be in a year from now. But I look back at this summer as a time where we grew together so much, and yet as a time where I still need to grow. Ugh, the growing... does it ever stop? I always thought the kids would be the ones doing the learning, and here I am learning new lessons day in and day out about this crazy life called Mommyhood! They spent 3 months asking me to be their Mary and I scowled at them while pointing my 6- and 8-year-olds towards my list of things that still needed to be done, grumbling that i was "too busy" to put the puzzle together. And what about those famous last words, "We'll do it tomorrow, ok?" Oh, how those tomorrows came and went....
     Maybe you're like me. Perhaps you recognize that, because of your job or your chores or your personal obligations, that it's super difficult to balance the quantity vs. quality parts of life. And just maybe you're in the middle of your very own Mary / Martha controversy. Just remember this. They don't want a palace, a goose, or a recliner. They just want a Mama (and Daddy). They'll settle for dust bunnies and hot dogs if it means they can paint your nails and show you their forts. My hope is that you will join me in Pulling a Mary for the remainder of the summer and continue to do so as the busyness of school takes over this fall. Times tables and vocab words rock, but story time and cuddles win every time. Be a Mary to your kiddos tonight. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Burden Of Forgiveness

     Forgiveness. What sometimes appears to be such a simple concept is often one of the most difficult things to do. I found it ironic that today's devotion for the kids was on such a huge topic, yet it had the shortest memory verse of the summer yet. Psalm 130:4 "But you offer forgiveness." The text talks about how God offers forgiveness to us when we've done something wrong.... but it was hard to look at the verse as anything other than a command to us. To me. But you offer forgiveness. You offer it when it's hard. You offer it when it's painful. You offer it when it's undeserved. My mind instantly jumped back to when Taylor took rocks and drew all over the hood of my car because she was angry that I had a meeting and couldn't spend time with her. Small whispers filled my heart. You offer forgiveness. And as I pictured Cameron saying very inappropriate things to his sister when he thought no one could hear, and then lying repeatedly when confronted, I was struck between the eyes (harder than a bee sting) with the words You offer forgiveness.
     Phrases like "kids will be kids" didn't do much to aid my forgiveness towards these two for a long time, let me tell you! I held grudges like nobody's business, and my children were fully aware of it. I took each action as a personal attack (as sometimes they were) and I let unforgiveness set as firm as cement in my heart towards them. So, when I opened those pages today and saw the topic, I cringed. How in the world am I supposed to be the one to teach them forgiveness when they've seen me be bitter and vengeful so many times? You offer forgiveness.....
     We worked on memorizing the 4-word verse, which both Cameron and Taylor immediately forgot, proving once again that summer vacation is far too long. We then read the story that went along with the verse about a girl that had stolen $5 from her sister. She felt so guilty about what she did that she wasn't able to sleep until she confessed her sin to God and her sister and asked for forgiveness from them both. I wasn't born yesterday, so I was fully aware of the stolen glances my children were giving to one another as I read. Guilt. It was there as plain as the growing noses on their faces. I stopped reading for a moment and looked between the two of them.
     "Is there something you two would like to tell me?" I asked calmly. Simultaneous head nods occurred.... only Taylor nodded her head 'Yes' while Cameron nodded his 'No'. Hmmmm... "Is there something that you're both feeling guilty about, but that you don't want to tell me?" Again with the nodding discrepancy. "Taylor, is there something you and Cameron did together that you want to get off your heart, but you don't want Cameron to get mad at you?" It was no where close to a long shot, but she stared at me like I was capable of voodoo with all my magical mind-reading powers going on and all. "Yes," she spoke slowly. "Well, that and I don't want to get grounded and have to miss Artsy Doodle today." I turned my gaze towards Cameron. "What about you? Anything you're feeling right now?" I asked. "Well, there might be something.... but maybe you could promise that we won't get in trouble if we tell you?" he ventured.
     Ah, the thin line us parents walk presents itself. Teach our children the value of confession or teach them that there is a consequence for every action and risk them lying to cover up their mistakes. So, I tried to balance the tight rope carefully and attempted to do both. "Well, here's the thing. Depending on what it is will depend on if there needs to be a consequence of not." (I mean, it's not like they haven't done some pretty outrageous and dangerous things before!) "If I were to brake the law, there would still be a consequence despite me apologizing to the police officer, right?" I continued. They both nodded their heads in agreement and looked at each other one last time.
     It was Taylor who cracked first. "Well.... sometimes we sneak candy when you're upstairs with the baby, even when you've told us not to." Phew, ok, that's not horrible! Forgive. I can do this one! "Thank you for telling me," I said. "I forgive you."
     Cameron seemed to immediately grow braver. "And we ate most of Dad's pack of gum... you remember that day when you asked us about it and we told you Dad said we could have some and that you could call him and check? Yeah, he didn't tell us that and we were really glad you didn't call him." I felt a little tension in the back of my neck and I casually rolled my shoulders to shrug it away. Alright. Lying sucks, but at least they're being honest now, right? "Ok, thank you. I forgive you again."
     Taylor sat up straighter and jumped in again. "And sometimes we give the dogs the food we don't like from our plates when you leave the room.... even the stuff we know the dogs aren't allowed to eat because it makes them sick. You forgive me, right?" That explains the random piles of dog vomit I've had to clean up over the last few weeks. Tension.... there was more tension. It crept down my spine and made my tummy constrict, ever so slightly. To the untrained eye, however, I was rocking my forgiveness on the outside. "You do realize that you can hurt the dogs by doing this, and that we have these rules for a reason, right?" I said with an amazingly calm composure. "Yes," they agreed in unison. "Ok.... I forgive you, but do not let it happen again, do you understand?"
     Apparently in the sharing mood now, Cameron confidently informed me that, while playing outside some time ago, they found an old pop bottle with left over pop in it. He said that they kept it (along with stolen snacks) in the old refrigerator (that they were told repeatedly not to play with) out on the junk pile and that they would sneak into the fridge and drink pop and eat snacks when they wanted some... this was over the course of a couple months from what I gathered. Mental images frantically ran through my mind of Punky and Cherry playing hide-and-seek in that ever famous 80's episode that ended with Cherry being found unconscious after getting stuck in an old refrigerator (if you're a girl and you're in your 30's, you know what I'm talking about!).
     "You did WHAT?" I asked the two kids sitting in front of me. Their confidence vanished immediately and they gazed at each other with looks that said, See what you did? You woke the vengeful beast and now we're in trouble! Tension.... it seemed to leave my stomach and was making my eye twitch, ever so slightly. "Do you guys have any idea how dangerous it is to play in an old refrigerator?? That's why I told you so many times not to go near it because it is unsafe. And did you even think about what would happen by leaving food out in the yard? We have COYOTES! Not to mention racoons and crazy Mother-attacking hornets that are drawn to these things! Ugh, and you have no idea whose pop that even was, OR how long it had been outside! Would you pick up someone's chewed gum from a parking lot and eat it?? OF COURSE NOT! BECAUSE IT'S GROSS!!!" Tension.... crazy eyes.... heightened blood pressure....
     But you offer forgiveness.
     Ah, crap.
     Weak, nervous voices asked the question of the hour. "Do you forgive us?" I contemplated their request for a moment. Such a thin line. I want them to know that forgiveness doesn't give them permission to continue intentionally doing things they know are wrong. And I don't want them to think that there's no consequence for disobedience. But I also don't want them to think they can't tell me things they've done wrong out of fear of getting in trouble, especially when they can't even give me an accurate time of when these things occurred in the first place. And quite frankly, did I even want to forgive them? I mean, who knows how long this fun game of confessions will continue if I keep granting them forgiveness! How many times are they expecting me to do this? My guess was 70 times 7.
     "Ok. I forgive you. Both of you." I said eventually. I mean, you're idiots, but I forgive you.... Ugh, tension!! They looked relieved. I sat, waiting for any other confessions to come flying at me, but my kids seemed to realize that this game had run it's course and that they'd better quit while they were ahead. "Do you guys feel any better now that you've told me what you've done and that I forgave you?" I asked. "Um, can we still go to Artsy Doodle?" Taylor tried. You can't blame the girl for checking. "Yes.... you can still go to Artsy Doodle." She brightened and said, "Then yes! I feel a lot better. I already asked Jesus to forgive me for being sneaky.... but now you forgived me, too, so I feel good. And I'll try not to be sneaky anymore, ok?
     My grin was tight under this burden of forgiveness, but I knew that it was my job to teach them this valuable lesson... my job to right the wrongs I'd showed them by my actions months ago. "Well... good. I'm glad you feel better then."
     Both kids cleared their books from the table and decided on going outside for a while to play. I wasn't going to argue! A little alone time is never something a Mama turns down in August - certainly not when the "I'm bored"s and the "Ugh, it's too hooootttt to play outside"s are in full swing at this particular point of summer vacation. And as Taylor walked past me, she looked up at me, patted my shoulder and said, "Good job, Mom," before walking off.
     Thanks, kiddo.

Psalm 130:3-5
     "If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope."