Recommitting to the Boys

It was one of those deep, cathartic cries for a few minutes last Friday night. One of those crashing moments that emanates from serious exhaustion and feeling completely overwhelmed. A moment sparked by a sappy movie and fueled by a very late hour of the night. When I glanced up at the canvas painting on the wall of the three boys at the beach, I thought, “What in the world am I doing? What am I doing parenting three young boys? Sitting here in this temporary home trying to figure out the next step? How did I get here? Why am I doing this?”

Earlier in the week a colleague said, “I remember meeting you five years ago. You had a little baby on one hip, a little toddler tugging at your other leg, and a larger boy clinging on you. I thought to myself, I don’t know how she’s doing it.” I confessed that there were many times in those years that I didn’t know how I was doing it and sometimes I still don’t.

And there have been many times that I’ve confessed to another mom of boys, “I don’t know how to do this. It’s overwhelming to be responsible for these boys. I don’t think I can be a good mom to them.” Her reply, “It was not a mistake. God picked you to be their Mom.”

And yet, I have those moments of doubt about making the right decisions in life and wondering where to go next. Everybody does. It would be a lie to say that my life is roses all the time. To say that there are not moments when I doubt the decision to adopt three kids on my own. I don’t think I’d be much of a parent to them if I wasn’t consciously thinking of them often.

There certainly are many moments when I sit exhausted on the couch and envision what my still single friends are doing in their tidy little houses. I know they haven’t picked up a thousand Legos over the course of the day, or wiped feces off the wall, or sat locked in a battle of wills over the spelling homework paper. Sometimes it seems that the grass is greener over there (or doesn’t have to be tended to as much!).

It’s not that I think about reversing the decision, it’s that I get overwhelmed with the responsibility. My brain is constantly worried about how they are doing. Are they behaving in school? When’s the next IEP meeting? Have I gotten all their appointments scheduled? How am I going to afford braces? Is Super Tall Guy’s med working well? Are they playing nicely with the neighbors? Is this normal brotherly aggression or is it overboard? Why did they decide to microwave the oatmeal and the spoon? When will I have to sign the next “behavioral slip” for school? Does he need to be evaluated or is he just normal boy?

So the other night, I wiped away the tears and tucked myself in bed, pulling out (and dusting off) the boys’ “letter journals.” I used to journal when I was in my teens and then into college. In med school, I “journaled” by writing a letter to my grandmother every single week for four years about my medical img_9950training and then into residency as well until she passed away. Now I blog to share the crazy journey of parenting in a wider community. And every once in a while, and definitely not as often as I’d like, I also “journal” to my boys as short letters to them in small lined books.

It’s a lot like taking photographs of your kids. The first one, Super Tall Guy, has an entry every few months for his first few years of life. There are so many fun stories and sentiments that document his days and adventures. Middle child has much fewer and The Little Guy’s book, well, you can imagine, has very few pages full of ink.

As parenting stress crashes upon me, it helps to re-center by reconnecting. It’s an important exercise for me  It forces me to think about each boy individually. To think about what they have been doing lately and who they are becoming. I think about their personalities and their gifts. It helps me to reconnect with each of them and recommit to them, reminding me of my love for them and my commitment to parent them in the best way I can. And it’s an opportunity for me to lift them up in prayers of thanksgiving and protection.

paint-wpI tell the boys every day, “I love you – forever, for always, and no matter what.” I finish their “journal letters” each time with the same words. Sometimes I need to remind myself that in the hard times, in the times when my love for them is hidden under painted fingers, soiled laundry, broken doors, angry words, noise and chaos, that this love is a commitment. Forever, for always and no matter what. That’s what it means to be their parent. And the honor and joy of being part of their lives is all I really need (well, that and coffee and chocolate pretty much does it!).

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The Start-up of M.O.C.K

 

A few years ago, I celebrated my birthday with my family – my three very young boys,

Trying a magic trick

Trying a magic trick

my sister and her two young sons and my wonderful parents. The only thing I remember from that evening is vowing to never again have dinner at home on my birthday. From then on, I was not going to eat cold take-out Thai food, yell at kids and wipe up dog poop from under the table. It’s my birthday – I shall go out with friends. Now I delightedly savor warm bites of my favorite food and enjoy my favorite adult drinks in the company of some of my favorite adult friends. Delightful.

However, apparently once a year is not enough for me.

Anyone want to clean that up?

Anyone want to clean that up?

Because not all of my favorite adult friends are available on one particular day. Not all of my favorite food and drink can be consumed in one sitting (without some serious consequences afterwards). And that really, for me to survive this “best job of all” – parenting kids – I’m going to need a lot more support than dinner once a year.

We all do. We need fellowship with people in order to keep ourselves grounded and sane. We need to vent, we need to share, we need to laugh. We need friends of various walks of life to offer us perspective and experience. We need friends of various “ages and stages” of life to mentor us through our current stage and prep us for the next. We need people! And while in today’s world it’s pretty easy to connect through texting and Facebook and email, we cannot let ourselves be satisfied there. The body language, eye contact, and spontaneity which flows in gathering together is vital to us.

Typical evening pencil battle

Typical evening pencil battle

So my resolution this year (year being the “academic school year” since it is September after all, and therefore convenient to label it so), is to spend more time in the presence of friends (or about-to-be friends). And because I work for organizations with silly acronyms, I think an adult gathering should have a silly acronym as well. And because I’m all about inclusion and I have friends from so many different phases of my life and different situations, I want to make sure all are invited.

I’ve decided I need a M.O.C.K group – Mother Of Crazy Kids. (Or M.O.C.C. – see below).

If you have any children in your life, be they 50 years old, 22, 15 or 5 months of age, they are crazy by definition. They pick up gum from pathways in Kennywood Amusement Park and eat it before you can scream No! They color on walls. They flush things down the toilet.

Is this your hiding place?

Is this your hiding place?

They are crazy because they are curious and they are curious because they are kids. So, if you have kids (or someone in your life who acts like a kid), you have crazy kids.

Or, you could be the Mother of Crazy Kittens or Crazy Canines or some other kind of Critter (including general pests within the house). It’s M.O.C.C.!  If you have kids and critters, bless you. We should talk about that sometime.

Of course, you could also be the Mother of Crazy Concepts. Some of my friends specialize in wild and wacky ideas for which I love them. These thinkers-outside-any-box are essential to a gathering!

You just going to leave that there?

You just going to leave that there?

My thought is to have a regular gathering night and I’ll be there (unless I can’t) and others can just show up (unless they can’t). And if no one shows up, I’ll read a book for a couple hours and consider it a perfect night. And if anyone shows up, I’ll consider it a perfect night. The absolute key thing will be to stay out late enough that the babysitter has the boys asleep (and not just “in bed” – they’ve tricked me with that before!) before I get home!

Because kids are crazy and crazy is fine, but sometimes it’s just nice to not put the crazies to bed and to have a few moments in the company of others.

 

 

 

47 Things I’m Thankful for on My Birthday!

I guess the first thing would be that I got out for a run after putting the kids on the bus (school day number 2!) this morning and that gave me time and mental “space” to think about all the things I’m thankful for! After about the top 11+, they are not really in any particular order (kind of hard to compile the final part with a five-year-old talking incessantly in your ear while wearing an Olaf costume).

  1. A loving and forgiving God who picks you up and fills you up in all the many moments every single day! 🙂
  2. Super Tall Guy– within all his grumpiness, irritability and anger, he is sweet and loving and trying every day to do his best.
  3. Mr. Ornery – ornery as all get out, but such a sweet, creative, snuggly delicious little boy!
  4. The Little Guy – the most resilient, tender, kind, extroverted being I’ve ever met who approaches the world head on. He’s a game-changer!
  5. My parents – their unconditional love, missionary heart, and constant encouragement has meant the world to me. And their current support of my sister and I in our parenting is priceless.
  6. My sister – she started us on this journey of parenting and I will never forget that! Love her.
  7. My brother and his family – such a faithful, loving big bunch. Wish we lived closer.
  8. All my other family scattered around the States and the world! So thankful for them and the love they share.
  9. My best friend from college – her boys are just two days older than my three and we commiserate and support each other practically daily.
  10. Countless friends who are always there in so many different ways from all my educational experiences (a TON of education) and a wonderful medical community of friends and so many other places. I am so grateful!
  11. Our Cavadoodle Mitzy – she’s such a gentle soul….and patient with the boys….soooo patient with the boys!
  12. My health – enough to try water-skiing again last month and getting out to run.
  13. That my boys are physically healthy (though behaviorally they drive me nuts!!)
  14. A developing church family.
  15. A fellow foster parent who made parenting a newborn possible ten years by offering to do childcare for Super Tall Guy until he was 6 weeks old and could start at daycare. She made our “story” possible.
  16. Growing up as a missionary kid in Thailand as it had such an impact on my life and is my forever home in my heart.
  17. The opportunity to travel throughout the world (though the passport became unused once the boys arrived….).
  18. Friends around the world thanks to my parents’ wise decision to have foreign exchange students when we were in high school.
  19. Living in the U.S. where we have so many opportunities.
  20. Super Tall Guy’s “big brother” from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program who has been a blessing to our whole family.
  21. Good school for the boys where they are safe and cared for and have many opportunities.
  22. Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz ice cream – it’s out of this world. Try it. You won’t stop.Processed with MOLDIV
  23. The fact that Target has just started stocking Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz! One-stop shopping is key for single moms!
  24. Living in Pittsburgh which is a small town big city in which everyone is “related” by only 2 or 3 degrees of separation.
  25. Starbucks nonfat no-whip mocha…..just addicted…that is all.
  26. Ability to work a job that gives me tons of flexibility at work doing so many different things and and flexible hours so that I can be at kid events and available when needed.
  27. A camera that lets me document my boys’ antics and cuteness – photos are sometimes a necessary reminder of why I love them! 🙂
  28. Friends that helped me purchase a minivan when my crew grew and three car seats wouldn’t fit across a row anymore!
  29. Opportunities for my boys to get involved in sports and receive coaching and mentoring and meet new people (though I miss them when seasons end)
  30. Living in a community with neighbors who help out whenever needed.
  31. Texting – I just love texting….I’m an introvert….enough said.
  32. Having a home. Even though we’re looking for a new place to move to, it’s nice to have a comfortable place to be in the meantime.
  33. A comfortable bed. Beds are wonderful. I can’t wait until all of my boys feel the same way about their OWN beds!
  34. Showers are great – especially the first one after a beach vacation and you finally feel like you got the sand out of your toes.
  35. Okay – the opportunity to take vacations. Not everyone can and I don’t take them for granted.
  36. Grass under foot, trees overhead, flowers in bloom, leaves that change color, snow that falls.
  37. Fireplaces – I love fireplaces.
  38. And garages, oh how I wish I had a garage (it’s on my bucket list before I turn 50!).
  39. A basic ability to cook and a joy of baking.
  40. The opportunity to live in peace and safety (most of the time).
  41. Having a big “safety net” around and under me when it’s needed.
  42. My grandma’s piano in the living room and an occasional moment to tickle the ivories.
  43. Jigsaw puzzles – always a soothing activity to me.
  44. Access to technology and a basic understanding of it so that I can communicate with it, compile memories through it, and connect with others.
  45. A little wine or beer or margarita sprinkled into life.
  46. Sunshine.
  47. Knowing that I am loved.