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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"

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."