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Small Victories

            There is a picture of a woman jogging on my desktop background. To those of you that know me, this is an obvious sign that I’m breaking down. Because, for one, it’s athletic. And two, it’s jogging. Women shouldn’t jog. It goes against our anatomical make-up. Too many things bounce and jiggle and smack us in the face if we try. It’s just not natural.

            But I chose this picture as my background because, for one, my computer crashed and I lost all that was near and dear to me (electronically speaking). Did I back up to the magical world of clouds and boxes? Of course not. I mean, I thought I did… but did you know those things get full and stop backing things up automatically? I didn’t know that.

            I digress.

            I chose this jogger as my picture, not just because my computer crashed and I lost all my other pictures that were on Windows 8, sending me into the bizarre land of Windows 10 (that makers of which are obviously trying to push this God-forsaken sport onto us)… but I chose this picture because the woman was jogging on the beach. And the beach – its sand and soothing waves – is my safe place. It’s my womb. It’s the place I wish to crawl into and rest until all is right with the world again.

            Life has been busy, as it always is. But it’s been extra busy with computers crashing and car batteries dying, preparing to build a house, books coming out and opening a homeless shelter the same week of Thanksgiving (because who does that!!!). Life has been busy, so much so that I didn’t allow myself to prepare for my children and their RAD. It was almost as if, because I had forgotten the holiday was coming, that I my children would also magically forget or something.

            But let me assure you, they didn’t.

            In true RAD form, my children rose to the occasion like Gladiators. They wore their armor and prepped for battle while I mindlessly went about my errands and craziness, completely unprepared for the fight. Sitting here now, I feel ashamed of myself for getting so busy that I neglected to remember the tell-tale signs. I let my guard down and am now paying the price.

            Between the two of them in a few days’ time, we had sexual advances, horrific disrespect to women, a near flooding of the basement because someone took the washer apart, my beautiful Willow Tree collectible items were colored on (and not by the toddler), and an entire melted candle was poured down our drain.

            You guys, it’s been 3 days and we still can’t use our tubs, sinks, or toilets! My house smells like a sewer and, no matter how many times I tell these little people NOT to flush the toilets, they just keep on flushing them, sending them to near-overflowing. Mind you, these same children NEVER flush a toilet to save their lives. But not this week… This week, they are freaking toilet-flushing machines!

            We literally drove to our church to poop today. All of us. We just sat there and waited till we all had to go. Because that’s what parents of RAD children get to do in their “free time”.

            So, to break up the fun of waiting for the bowels to move, I decided to collect more items for the shelter our church opened this week. A house was being torn down and there was furniture that needed to be salvaged. I traipsed in with 2 RADs and a toddler before realizing that we had, in fact, entered a crack house.

            Awesome.

            My kids dove into the plunder like pirates looking for buried treasure, while I took the razor blade off the two-year-old who had found it atop the mirror stained with special white powder marks on the kitchen counter. And when my almost 9-year-old asked if she could keep the pretty vase for her room, I hadn’t the heart to tell her that it wasn’t actually a vase at all but something that we could get arrested for owning. It was when my oldest stuck his hand into a bag filled with urine-soaked items that I decided I was totally not going to win the mother of the year award (again, dang it!).

            We salvaged what we could safely clean and took it to the shelter. I answered no less than 3 trillion questions about nothing important, and the toddler developed a fever and runny nose… he probably got a case of second-hand drug use from the crack house. I’m watching for signs of withdrawal as we speak.

            And after we went back to the church to “finish our deeds”, we finally arrived back home. And these children couldn’t believe that I was exhausted. How dare I not play with them on a Monday during business hours. How dare I not entertain them and watch movies and celebrate the holiday weekend with them instead of working. How dare I not allow them to make play dates when they’ve acted like complete fools for the better part of a week.

            And all I could do was sit and stare at the woman jogging on my computer screen. I knew in real life that her boobs must be killing her, but I wanted nothing more than to be her in that moment. I’d trade sore nips for a battered heart any day of the week. It also occurred to me that running is about small victories – counting down the mile markers, keeping track of breaths and strides, staying focused on just the next step.

            My kids, although complete terrors this week, didn’t lie about their behaviors – they took ownership. They didn’t fight their consequences, they accepted them. They still can’t tell me why and I still have no idea what will make them stop, but there were small victories nevertheless.

           Today, as I sat there crying to a near-stranger, I realized that now is the time to count my breaths and strides – to focus on just the moment that is in front of me. My body may hurt and my mind may scream against all that is happening, but there is a sea of beauty all around, just waiting to be noticed. And whereas I may not have a physical beach to calm my frantic soul, I know that, breath by breath and stride by stride, peace is mine for the taking.

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My Circus, My Monkeys

After another Mother’s Day fail this year, I found myself on the hosting end of a world-class pity-party.  It’s been 5 years now and each holiday has its shares of ups and downs.  There are usually tantrums, tears, screaming, and breaking things – peeling of paint, peeing on something, hurting a sibling.  But Mother’s Day is always the one holiday that takes the cake.

The first year, it was my fault.  Cameron and Taylor had only been living with us for 6 weeks at that time, and my excitement of finally being able to celebrate the holiday as a foster mother had gotten the better of me.  That was the year of the fecal smearing.  I’ll never forget it.  That specific day soured my plans for the following holiday’s celebrations.  Needless to say, the next year was a fighting disaster, filled with hate and more broken items.  As was the year after that and the next. 

However, this year, we’d made it through Thanksgiving with miraculous calm, and Christmas had only its minor bouts of crazy that came into play.  So, in a moment of weakness, I allowed myself to imagine this Mother’s Day as being a turning point – something spectacular and lovely.  In my delusion, I ignored the warning signs.

Earlier this week, my son’s disrespect for women hit epic proportions, which got him kicked out of my vehicle at the end of our driveway and sent back to our house (accompanied by screaming that resulted in my neighbors sending me concerned text messages).  Cameron also took it upon himself to get into my make-up and set his sister up to take the fall.  (It took many days and many lies before we got to the bottom of this one!)  And both children had taken it upon themselves to use their grandmother’s Wi-Fi to look up inappropriate materials.  Again, lies.  Again, blaming.  Again, fervent promises that it wasn’t them.

The night before the over-anticipated holiday, Taylor threw up ALL OVER the living room – as if she'd had a full-on exorcist moment and managed to spray the entire room with rancid bile.  My husband and I cleaned it up and sent our daughter back to bed with a puke bucket before we all turned in for the night.  At 6:30am, Wyatt, who has been suffering with a horrible cold, coughed so hard that he threw up ALL OVER me, himself, and our bed.

You guys, it was in my hair. (Because curly-haired girls don’t have enough problems to deal with.)

I plunked Wyatt down on the shower floor and cleaned us both off as best I could.  Struggling to shave my legs while the toddler banged his toy train repeatedly off my knee-caps, I gave up and just prayed that no one noticed the stubbly places I’d missed.  Besides, my stomach was starting to feel a little fishy, as well, so I figured bruised knees and hairy patches were the least of my worries.

Once I was clean, my husband gave me a beautiful Mother’s Day card, and I noticed that everyone had signed their names and written me a special message… everyone except for Cameron.  My son was apparently ticked off that no one would tell him what to write to me, so he sloppily scrawled his name and slapped the card down without care.

It’s the lack of thought that counts, really.

Pat stayed home with the sick baby while I went to church with our older two.  We were there for 2 minutes before Taylor started screaming and crying over something her brother had done.  But I couldn’t be bothered by that, because at that moment I was being informed of events that had occurred during my daughter’s play-date the previous day.  Events that drained me of my energy, brought up lies that I’m the worst mom on the planet, and that left me with umpteen phone calls to make the following day.

And worse yet, she showed absolutely no remorse for her actions when my husband and I addressed them with her later that day.  The only tears she shed were when she was told she was going to stay in her room while her brothers got to go to Grandma’s house.  Then the tears came.  She screamed for nearly 3 hours over the unfairness of life.

I spent Mother’s Day #5 feeling sick, being puked on, dealing with bad attitudes and tantrums, and listening to a child scream for hours instead of feeling sorry for her actions that have devastating repercussions.

So, when I say I had a pity-party, I mean I crawled into my bed, turned on re-runs of Law & Order: SVU (loudly, as to drown out the screaming from downstairs), and I cried bitter tears that I didn’t even have the energy to wipe away.  And since I was already a wreck, I allowed myself to watch videos on my phone of Isaac, my lost little love, who pains my heart each day - but especially today.  It was my 1st Mother’s Day without him, and every inch of me was agonizingly aware.

All I kept thinking was that if I was in Walmart or someplace in public, I could look at a mother struggling with her children and think to myself “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”  I would be able to walk from the store without giving that woman another thought.  Not that I wouldn’t care for her situation, but since it’s not my responsibility, I would be able to sleep that night in peace.

Picture by redditlurker.com

Picture by redditlurker.com

But this is my circus.  And these children are my monkeys.  And I’m aware that Mother’s Day doesn’t necessarily need to be all about me and celebrating all the wonderful things I’ve done as a parent… because quite honestly, I’ve been reactionary and sucking it up in the parenting department pretty regularly these past few weeks. 

Additionally, I know in my head that traumatized children often take out their frustrations on their mothers (biological, foster, or adoptive).  I’ve read the studies.  Heck, we ARE the studies.

My family is not your circus.  And I’m the one responsible for when my monkeys get loose and wreak havoc on the community, not you.  But for those of you who have chosen to surround our broken cages with love and support… I cannot begin to thank you enough.  For your kindness, your prayers, your understanding, your forgiveness – these are the things that help me feel that I am truly not alone.

And next time I’m in Walmart, I will be specifically looking for that Mama.  I will walk up to her, smile, and tell her that she’s amazing.  It may not help her sleep at night, but she too, will know that she’s not alone.

You are not alone either.  Check out the MommyhoodSFS Membership Program HERE.

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The Big Jamaica Reveal

The moment has finally arrived and we are OFFICIALLY on vacation!! Well, the big kids are on vacation in Jamaica with their grandma, uncle, aunt, and cousins, while the Hubs and I are on vacation in our own home. And, after talking to the kids on the phone and doing FaceTime with them this morning, I think it’s still a toss-up on who is having more fun. I mean, sure, they have 86 degree weather, sandy beaches, and 5-star meals being prepared for them day and night…

But I have cleaned the entire lower level top to bottom for the first time in 2 years! I know... it was gross and scary, but I washed walls and baseboards, scrubbed appliances, and Old Englished basically everything. As a reward, I went shopping for myself, and I've not had to do a lick of 2nd and 4th grade homework in 24 hours! Additionally, cooking is optional for the next 5 days, no practices will need to be attended, and I watched a non-cartoon movie with my husband last night. The whole movie.

You guys. My staycation is soooo kicking their vacation in the butt!

Anyway, we have been planning the trip for months now. Since the summer, actually. We used credit cards to pay bills that would then transfer to travel points, giving us virtually free airfare and a 4-night/5-day vacation/staycation heaven! But, because my kids are fruitcakes, heavy on the nuts, we decided that we wouldn’t tell them until the day they were leaving.

If you have to ask why, then you either do not know my children, or you are sorely unaware of my impatience for repetitious questions. We did this to save their lives.

But yes, we did manage to keep it a surprise, despite their teachers, extended family members, and hearing-impaired-thus-loudly-whispering great-grandmother all knowing the big plans! It was, by and large, the most mischievous of things we’ve ever collectively done in our whole lives. When we went to get their passport pictures taken, we were able to convince them that they needed passports for any far-away travel. And in order to keep it fun for the adults, Pat and I had also been dropping little geography tips about Jamaica on and off. We’d gone as far as to show the kids pictures of the island, the major cities, and how far it is from Florida. However, this is the only part that stuck for some reason. So, naturally, they thought we were planning a trip to Disney World. (Naturally. Because Disney World is now in Jamaica, is it not?)

But back to the Big Reveal. In preparation for sharing the news, we had my cell phone all set to record…

But then the record button didn’t get pressed (which my sainted mother-in-law feels terrible about) and we were forced to stage a reenactment. A very, very unenthused, underwhelming reenactment! However, I wanted to share their secondary reaction with you all, and point out a few concerns my children had about the trip.

(For additional fun, feel free to match the child to the question/concern.)

Q)    Will there be snakes?

 A)    Everywhere. Absolutely.

Q) Will there be spiders in my bed?

A) I’ve specifically asked them to provide bed spiders, yes.

Q)    Will we have to sleep outside or will we have huts?

 A)    It’s a resort… like a hotel. So you will sleep inside. No huts.

 Q)    Do they have showers in J… J… …wait, where are we going again?

 A)    You’re going to Jamaica. And yes. There are showers. There are indoor toilets and electricity as well.

 Q)    I’m probably gonna barf from their food....

 A)    That’s the spirit!

 Q)    Are they gonna “speak accent” there? ‘Cause I bet I won’t even know what they’re talking about.

 A)    I have never been more proud of you and the education that you’re receiving as I am in this moment. PS, please treat the Jamaicans with less awkwardness than you do the Chinese at the buffet up the street.

Q) I’m going to be so bored if I don’t get to bring the Ipad or mp3 player!

A) If you’re bored on a tropical island filled with amazing things to do, then there’s not an Ipad in this world that could fix your attention span.

Q) Ugh, is it gonna be hot?

A) Yep, about 86 degress… and it’ll be 4 degrees here. Wake up and get excited, would you?

Q) Now we can’t play in the snow!

A) And….? I’m failing to see the problem here.

Q) We get to ride on a plane? Awesome! Wait, we’re going over the ocean? I’m not going.

A) You ARE going. This is my vacation, too, you know.

Q) Will there be sharks on the beach?

A) No, just in the pools.

Q) How will they know I can’t swim in the deep end?

A) Honey, the entire ocean is a deep end. Just wear a life jacket at all times… even in the shower.

Q) Do I have to share a bed??

A) Only if you’d like to avoid sleeping on the floor like a hobo.

Q) What if you didn’t pack everything I want and I need something when I’m there?

A) Then you’ll stop needing it and realize you’re in JAMAICA!!

 

And this is why we didn’t tell them sooner.

Oh, and while FaceTiming with the kids earlier today, Cameron made sure to tell me that he didn’t miss me at all! He loves Jamaica so much that he may never come back, he said. But my feelings were not too hurt. After all, I’m pretty sure that if he tried to stay, his jolly disposition and incessant questions would have the entire country working together to get him back to the U.S. where he belongs.

And until then, I plan on reading a book. For fun. A book for fun.

These words… they’re just so freeing to say!

Here’s to all the Mamas and Daddy’s that are needing a vaca-stay-cation. May the travel points be ever in your favor.

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Raising Cows

Well, we’ve had some recent concerns about our oldest son. Due to a few behavioral observations, we decided to have some testing done and, as it turns out, our worst fears were confirmed.

Our son is part-cow.

There, I said it. It feels so good not to have to hide it any longer! I mean, it’s been tough living in a bi-mammal home. All the mooing was really starting to affect our family dynamic. And then PETA began sending us letters, which got really uncomfortable. Even our local farmer, bless his heart, offered to take him off our hands. But how could we send our own son out to pasture? He’s not resourceful enough and would never make it on his own. He struggles to make friends as it is, and the other cows would just shun him because he looks different… So, we’ve decided to try our hardest and love him, despite his obvious cowness.

Now, if you read that and think that I’m the nutty one, you should hear my son cry. Each and every time this child gets corrected, he moos himself into a tizzy! Quite literally, this kid will moo until he makes himself throw up. It’s been going on for years, but as all parents are aware, Christmas break is really freaking long. It was several weeks of continuous bovine noises and, well, we just cannot stand it for another second! I mean, if we had a barn, I’m pretty sure he’d be banished there every time he starts up. Instead of sending him to his room, I could send him to his stall (which would really cut down on the headaches for the rest of us).

Last night was no different. Cameron was once again being sent to bed early for touching things that were not his. This habit of his falls somewhere on the Normal Boy – RAD Boy Spectrum. When told not to touch something, he waits for unsuspecting victims to leave the room, or tired grandparents to fall asleep, and then he touches the very thing he was told not to touch (this is also usually followed by an elaborate, yet insufficient, cover-up of some sort).

Exhibit A- The mysteriously broken blood-pressure cuff at my parents’ house this Christmas break. The very room where Cameron was sleeping was the very room the cuff laid hidden away…. UNTIL, that is, Cameron found it and ripped it apart.

Exhibit B- At the same house during the same break, Cameron turned my mother’s oven on to self-cleaning mode while she was attempting to bake her pumpkin pie.

Exhibit C- At our home this break, Cameron used his Dad’s drill bits. For what? We don’t know. Where they’re at now? No one will ever find out. Nor will we find his work gloves that Cameron insists on using and then not putting back, no matter how many times we tell him to stop.

And finally, that brings us to Exhibit D. The grand finale, if you will. My husband’s mother was watching Cameron at her house for us this weekend and, the poor woman fell asleep for 20 minutes. (Twenty. Minutes.) During this time, Cameron turned the temperature in her refrigerator all the way down. AGAIN. (This is the 4th occurrence!) A fridge full of food, once crisp and fresh, now lies sour and warm.

As you could well imagine, this was the breaking point. He was given 10 minutes to get ready for bed and was told that lights would be out and sleep would be occurring or he would be in trouble.

And then the mooing began.

“Cameron,” my husband warned sternly. “Enough. There will be no mooing tonight. Do whatever you have to do to keep yourself under control. Hold your pillow over your mouth, take deep breaths, get a drink of water, whatever. But under no circumstances will we listen to you moo for the next 3 hours until you make yourself puke. Do you understand?”

My cow-child inhaled sharply and then mooed again.

“CAMERON. Stop immediately.” My husband, to his credit, was trying to keep himself under control as best as he could… but this mooing thing, it really is the proverbial straw that breaks the cow’s back.

Cameron continued to moo and my husband glared at him with dark, menacing eyes. It was a look that let Cameron know that one more moo could very possibly get him put down – sent to that final farm up in the sky.

Cameron choked on some more sobs and made some more weird, guttural noises as he stared back, unsure of what to do (well, I’m not sure why he was unsure… he was told to get ready for bed no less than 25 times, but I didn’t interject. I just watched, wishing I had a tub of popcorn and a snuggie to take in the show).

Finally, Cameron gave just enough attitude to test the waters, but not enough to get him grounded for the next century.

“What! What are you staring at?” Followed by a half-moo-sob-combo.

And then we were done.

“YOU, CAMERON!!! I’M STARING AT YOU! DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY I’M STARING AT YOU, SON? IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE MOOING LIKE A FARM ANIMAL!!!! YOU DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO STARE AT YOU? THEN START ACTING LIKE A HUMAN BEING! I’M NOT MOOING AND NO ONE IS STARING AT ME!!!!” This was said with such flourish that I was positive my husband’s arm gestures would knock over a chair at the very least!

Cameron immediately mooed ridiculously and ran from the room, up the steps, and finally into his bedroom. My husband’s face was red and he stood there looking like a bull ready to charge. I, on the other hand, was so close to hysteria that it was palpable. But I needed to keep myself composed until all children were out of earshot. I chewed on my cheek and took a few deep breaths.

Once I was certain we were alone, in my best mocking voice I mimicked, “I’m not mooing and no one is staring at me!” And then I collapsed into a heap of giggles. Because, honestly, it was the weirdest statement I can ever remember hearing a parent make. And because who in the world has to tell their son to stop mooing? I mean, seriously! My husband was displaying equal amusement and joined me in my laughter, as our cow uttered muffled moos in the background. (PS, if you just got the pun in there, you are truly my people.)

I gave The Hubs a high-five. “Best parenting moment ever, right there! And by the way, I’m sooo gonna blog about this.”

So, there you have it. We are a dysfunctional family on most days. We raise children, dogs, and apparently cows and bulls. We are often loud and usually require time-outs. But as long as we can laugh, I think it’s going to all turn out OK in the end.

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It Is Well - Vlog

When life gets hard and your heart is in a vice, be assured that it is STILL well with your soul. #HOPE

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