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Copy of Simple Steps to De-Stress Your Morning Routine

Here is our final guest article we are celebrating for the month of February, brought to us by Daniel Sherwin at dadsolo.com ! We could ALL use a little morning de-stress and are grateful for a dad who is on the ball!!!

For some reason, mornings tend to be busy and maybe even a little bit chaotic. You can make them easier by creating a morning routine that gets everyone up and out with as little chaos as possible. When you’re ready for the day, you’re ready to take on whatever life throws your way, including a temper tantrum or two. Here are tips to help you:

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An Everlasting Fugue

I’m currently sitting at my computer, fluffiest cat in my lap chewing on a hole in my jeans, while I pick my nails and rigorously assess my hair for split ends. This is what my writing process has come to. The dos and don’ts of what can and cannot be shared, the ever-increasing desire for privacy from my children as they age, legalities regarding Isaac and the child welfare system… these are the things that paralyze my writing – my very need to release has been hushed. There are so many thoughts swirling about my mind, preventing me from putting pen to paper, that I fear I will be bald and fingernail-less within the hour! So please, bear with me.

My husband said it best yesterday when he referred to our oldest two as the Mozart and Beethoven of nonsensical arguments. I’ll forgive him for the misquote due to his lack of composer knowledge… because obviously my kids are more like Bach. A schizophrenic Bach who got stuck in an endless loop of fugues, creating chaos while feeding off the other’s energy. Their composition is entitled Cameron and Taylor – An Everlasting Fugue. These two children are, in a sense, The Song That Never Ends. (At least Shari Lewis gets to rest in peace, unlike those of us living in my home.)

It’s to the point that even the three-year-old recognizes the disparities, both social and intellectual, between himself and his siblings. He regularly tells them to stop arguing and to “Quit acting like babies!” He reiterates that he already told them something ten times and, because I know he is my child, when they continue to ignore his directions he puts his arms in the air with a flourish and yells “I’m done!” before stomping away. (I swear it’s like looking in a mirror!)

But what Wyatt fails to understand at his young age is that Cameron and Taylor are stunted. Taylor remains under close watch and with limited freedom due to her extreme need to have the adults in her world enforcing moment by moment safety measures over her. This confuses Wyatt, as well as many of those close to us. When others look at her, they see a beautiful, vibrant 10-year-old. What they miss is the overwhelming need my daughter has to love and be loved in the only way she was shown as a young girl – a way that was traumatizing and abusive.

Even with Cameron, Wyatt constantly yells at him to stop being mean. And just like the regressed, overgrown toddler that Cameron is, he continues to instigate and torment, despite the consequences. But this week was a difficult one for him, both physically and emotionally. Not only did he have a kidney relapse after over-exerting himself on a youth group retreat, he also had his neuropsychological testing done. Whereas we haven’t received the results back from the 3.5-hour test, it was evident by the looks on both Cameron’s and the doctor’s faces that our follow-up appointment will be one that is lengthy. If that weren’t enough, on our way home from this exhausting test, we had no choice but to pass the town where Cameron lived before being adopted.

I do my best to avoid certain towns and neighborhoods with my children, but there are times when there is NO other route and the memories just start flooding. This was the case with my son as we drove home in silence from the doctor’s office. It was as if he couldn’t handle the thoughts in his head and they had to come out. As he spouted story after story, feeling after feeling, he made a statement that I’m still trying to process days later. He said that he has these feelings and thoughts that take over and he can’t stop thinking about them until he acts on them – things that make him want to do things that are dangerous, harmful to others, and scary. He admitted to actions that I had no idea about, things that he had previously kept hidden or blamed on others.

Ok, these are the moments that make you question becoming a parent, let’s be honest! There are days where I just sit there and wonder if I’m harboring future predators and serial killers (this increases the nail biting and hair picking by about a million percent) and then there are other days when I remind myself that it is RAD, brain damage, learned behavior – that they have a therapist, mostly sane parents, and a very big God. Those are the days that I remember to breathe as I push thoughts of felonies from my mind.

And then there’s Isaac. The sweet boy who is quickly fading under the perpetual weighty exposure of drugs, abuse, sex, and instability. With each new update on his condition, each failure of the police or CYS to rescue him, each broken Christmas toy and returned birthday gift – I am devastatingly aware that he was the one that was left behind. Cameron and Taylor were saved, even if it may have been too late. But Isaac is just a number – a statistic of gross negligence from society who wants to be helped but is quickly learning that help will not come. At least not for him. However… his smile is still a sight to behold. When I catch a glimpse of a new picture and see a hint of the twinkle that I remember so well, I feel a warmth spread through my soul. He is not a number to me.

So, on those days that my kids are fugueing up my very last nerve, I choose to remember the moments that have been special – like when Cameron thought Wyatt was having hallucinations because he was talking to himself (aka, using his imagination), or when Taylor asked us at kids’ church to pray for all the children who didn’t get cute boots for Christmas like she did, or when Wyatt told me he would be my best friend forever if I gave him some Doritos (followed by screams that I’m a “bad girl” because I didn’t give him Doritos), or when I think of Isaac’s belly laugh, the one that will never leave my mind, even though I’m sure he would wreak just as much havoc as the others if he were here with us today!

Despite the nonsensical arguments, the nail biting, and the split end picking, there is a beautiful and slightly distorted, off-key composition taking place in our home. Whether it’s a day of putting in ear plugs or choosing to sing along to the chaos, I know that our music will continue to grow and change – our everlasting fugue.

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"Shame!"

          Last night I discovered that my 4th grade daughter has been forging my initials on school documents for almost a month to avoid missing recess. That means that for 3 and a half weeks, I have been harboring a felon. Now, honestly, this is the behavior I expect from my 6th grade son. With all of his mind-boggling tantrums and homicidal threats lately, forgery didn’t seem like something too far off of his grid. However, I generally ruled out this type of behavior because it requires, how do I put this… intelligence… to pull this type of scheme off. And quite honestly, we haven’t had to worry about that particular amount of intelligence as of yet.

            But it seems that I have underestimated my daughter’s capabilities, as well as the lengths she will go to avoid sitting out for recess. It’s odd, but there was a certain part of me that felt almost impressed that she was able to pull something like this off for so long. I had been doing what 4th grade parents are instructed to do – start pulling back on being “helicopter mom” and allowing the kids to fail or succeed (to a certain degree) on their own. It’s their time to learn how to organize their papers, be responsible for getting signatures, and miss recess when things are not signed or completed accurately.

            That being said, I secretly watch her grades on the new school Skyward program, and since most of them were in the average range, it didn’t occur to me that I was being played… until last night, when I realized that she didn’t want me to see her planner. THEN I knew something was up. She had been hiding behind the distraction of her older brother’s rages and her toddler brother’s Terrible Three’s, and she had been doing so extremely well! My daughter actually banked on the fact that I wouldn’t check up on her because of the other chaos going on. She played me like the fiddle that I am, whispering words of how proud she is of herself for doing so well lately, and saying how she “feels just awful” that her older brother can’t seem to get on track. (Blah, blah, blah.) She blew so much smoke up my rear end that I could’ve passed for a chimney.

            Oh my gosh, I seriously just recalled half a dozen times that my daughter massaged my feet or complimented me out of the blue recently… that tricky little monster! I should’ve known something was up when she told me my unwashed hair of 3 days was “stunning”, because seriously? Stunning? You’re NINE. Say “cool” next time you’re trying to cover up your sneakiness!

            On top of all the manipulating and the forging and the deception… this child had the audacity to LIE, to my face, 5 times in a row – digging herself deeper into the trench that will now be the burial ground for her social life. Because the Fiddle has regained her rightful spot as the Fiddler, as Fiddlers tend to do. Goodbye gymnastics! Adios birthday parties and play dates! Bon voyage recess! (Because YES I emailed her teachers and informed them of her need to sit and find repentance during the 25 minutes that used to be her school play time.) At the risk of going overboard, I actually thought about cutting out an “F” in red cloth and requiring her to wear it on her clothing until I feel she has securely learned her lesson, but apparently the letter F could cause some confusion that is unnecessary for the 4th graders of our rural community.

            Therefore, if you live in the local area and see my child out in public, feel free to point your finger at her while yelling “SHAME!” I would consider this fair and equal punishment.

          (PS, before you get all judgy and condescending, my daughter came up to me after school and told me that missing recess is just fine with her because they miss it half the time anyways because the class talks too much. Yeah. She told me my consequence meant nothing.)

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A Mother's Day Reminder

Today is Mother’s Day. I have children (11 and 9) who were adopted, one foster child (4) whom we lost, and one birth child (who just turned 3 yesterday). In our house we have mental health issues, social delays, and the inability for each person to pee on the potty consistently each day. To top things off, we own a LOT of dog hair. In fact, we get so busy that I might even forget that we own the 3 dogs entirely if it weren’t for the constant reminder of hair and dander floating to and fro as we rush in and out of the door each day to get go our millions of errands and appointments.

To sum things up, our life is one of chaos.

I remember a few years back my oldest son and I were at the mall (back when we had time for such luxuries). We ran into a child from his class and Cameron was anxious to introduce me. The next day he came home from school proudly announced that his friend had a crush on me. The sense of joy this gave my son, that he could have a mom “cute enough” to be crushed on by a peer, was priceless. And I, needless to say, felt flattered.

Fast forward 3 years…

Cameron and I ran into this same peer a few months back in a church parking lot. Cameron made small talk with the boy by saying, “Hey, remember when you had a crush on my mom?” This other child then looked over at me and dismissively said, “Eh, she’s looking a little old now…”

Um, ouch?

My son felt the need to tell me this as if HIS feelings were hurt! I gave myself a quick check in my side mirror of our van as I processed the child’s words. It was then that I noticed that my hair was thrown up haphazardly and my make-up had worn off as the day had gone on. I didn’t display the same kind of attractiveness that I once had, and this was apparent to my son AND his friends. It didn’t take long before I began to second guess the state of my house, the quality of school lunches I pack for my kids, and the fact that I’m often too busy to play a game or build a fort when asked. By the time I’d returned home, I was practically in a tail spin about my inadequacies as a mother. Naturally, children finding us old and unattractive does this to a mama!

But today, as my husband and three remaining children gathered around me, doting me with cards, gifts, and handmade notes, I felt tremendously blessed. I also felt something else that surprised me greatly.

I felt adequate.

All of the things that creep into my mind throughout the days and the months, the things that point out all my flaws – those things are nothing in comparison to being the mother that MY kids need me to be. I mean, I could so easily get hung up on the fact that my weight will probably always have a 15 pound fluctuation… but if my daughter looks at me and sees a strong and confident woman, I have succeeded. I may grieve the loss of a child and show this weakness to my other children at times when the pain becomes too much to keep inside… but if they see me rise after I weep, then I have succeeded. My house may be cluttered and my legs be unshaven, but if my children observe that my time is being spent on helping the needy and loving the unlovable, then I have succeeded.

Because you see, our successes and failures are not judged by our children in the same light as we judge ourselves. Yes, they may be disappointed when we can’t play every game with them and if they get peanut butter and jelly 3 days in a row (okay, 5 days in a row) – but these things are small in comparison to our example of forgiveness when they lose their minds in tantrums every other day or when they hide their dirty clothes around their rooms instead of putting them in the hamper.

By simply being a mother who loves and disciplines and does her best for her family and her community and her God, we are being the perfect example that our children need. We are being real. And by being real, that means that we are often ragged and lumpy and worn, just like a child’s favorite stuffed toy. By being real, that means that our children see our lives and learn to set expectations of both greatness and resilience during failures, all at the same time.

When we show our children these things, whether or not we feel lovely or disheveled, all together or frazzled – we have succeeded.

Be blessed, be real, and remember that you ARE succeeding.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mamas.

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A Season to Head Bang

Sometimes I feel like I’m banging my head off a brick wall with my kids. Anyone else?? Often, I see no results, well apart from a headache. Other times I simply bang my head out of habit. Brush your teeth… Stop hiding your dirty clothes around your room… Leave your sister alone… Put the milk away… Take your meds… Stop peeing on your things… If it’s not yours, stop touching it… If you break one more toy, I’m never buying you another… Don’t forget your lunch… For God’s sake, wipe your butt! (Bang. Head. Hard.)

I say these things over and over again, not because I truly believe that my children will ever listen to my words, but because it’s my duty as a parent to say them, regardless of the outcome.  I am the teacher and the repeater and the official head banger of our household. I do these things so often that I usually run out of time to do other necessary things (laundry, grocery shopping, showering, etc). Generally, this leaves me feeling dissatisfied with my current life. Go figure, right? But honestly, if all I’m here for is to remind people to do things that they will, inevitably, not do, then what’s the point of my job as a mother?

Last week we had a group therapy session, me and the kiddos. I know with their diagnosis that I have to tread lightly when it comes to praise. If I give too much encouragement or show too much affection, the self-sabotage takes over and the tantrums will ensue. And, despite me knowing this, I praised my children during their therapy session. I was careful to do so quickly and without too much emotion, but it didn’t matter. My son arrived home and had a massive melt down. The “I hate you” train plowed through our home with a vengeance that evening, complete with screaming and slamming and all the back talk you can imagine. He even challenged The Hubs, which is quite insane because my husband is large and fairly intimidating when he scowls.

But none of this mattered to the boy. All that mattered was that I had broken the rules. I had said too much and it was his job to reestablish the chaos, leaving me to find the closest brick wall.

My daughter is much more passive in her need to rectify praise. She wants it desperately. But when she gets it, her body creates all manners of psychosomatic symptoms. She will literally develop any disease, wound, or body ache that she has seen someone else exhibit recently that got them attention. She’s my child who ends up in the nurse’s office with unsubstantiated illnesses that another classmate just had. Sadly, this week we are potty-training the toddler… therefore the way to get our attention and make the world right again was for her own bladder to regress.

She can’t help it, at least I don’t think she can. But it wouldn’t matter if she could or not. For me, it all comes down to the same thing. The fact that I am once again just hear to be the head banger.

The stress of all things concerning Isaac… the constant work I do educating others on watching for child abuse… the never-ending advocacy to get laws changed, to get social workers to do their jobs, to get people to see the horrific things happening to children all around us… it so often seems all for naught. I find myself spinning in circles all day long, only to wake up the next day and spin some more. I fight for my children, I fight with my children, and I fight the world that is harming children – day in and day out, I try to be the best that I can and follow the peculiar rules that this life needs me to follow so that my children don’t go postal on me. I try desperately to protect them and to train them and to remind them of all the good things they need to do and be. I want so much for all my children to be safe. Yet all I do is spin circles because it seems that no matter how much I try, very little changes.

The other day a female cardinal got trapped in our van while the windows were down. She frantically raced from one side of the van to the other, banging her head at every dead end. She also crapped on every surface of our freshly cleaned vehicle, but that’s another story entirely. When I went outside and saw what had happened, I tried to open the van door for this terrified bird to escape. In the meantime, her hubby tried to attack – divebombing every time I neared my van. His partner was trapped and he was frantic. He rammed himself into the glass so many times that he left bloody evidence of his efforts on each window.

Yet it wasn’t until after I got the door opened and both birds were free that I noticed that they have a nest in the tree above our van. These birds aren’t just partners, they are parents.

From that day on, these birds have guarded their nest with a vengeance. Our cars are constantly under attack and we, the owner of a Chrysler Town and County bird cage, are also a threat and are treated as such. From what I’ve read about cardinals, they are incredibly territorial and aggressive towards trespassers. I also read that they are amazing parents because they will go to any means necessary to care for their young.

This includes banging their heads off car windows and squawking wildly all day, every day.

Sound familiar?

We, the head bangers and circle spinners, we are not alone in our daily battle to protect our children. We may repeat endless efforts to ensure their safety and well-being and it may seem like nothing is ever changing… that we’re beating on the same glass of the same van each and every day.

But do you know what else I found while reading about cardinals? That they are often seen as a sign of Hope. That, after a long, bleak winter, the first sign of those bold, red feathers lets the rest of creation know that spring has arrived – that change is coming.

That there is hope for something more.

And sometimes that means a season of banging our heads and squawking loudly each and every day. But it is just that… a season. And in the end, our young will know that we did all we could to protect them and to set them on the best path possible. Because for everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. We will not spin circles forever, friends. It’s just our time to remind all around us of the Hope that has arrived.

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