When Newness brings Peace

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding….” (Phil 4:7)

There certainly was very little Peace and Quiet over this Christmas break despite the typical expectation of such. This year we moved to a house after living in a cramped, tiny townhome for the past 3 years. The older two had their own bedrooms, but the youngest slept in my bedroom. The TV was on one side of the “living” room space and the couch on the opposite side so the great joy in annoying the eldest was to cross in front of the TV multiple times…or just pretend to forget and stand there. The kitchen was tiny and I couldn’t stand to have a kid in there with me whenever I tried to cook anything on the non-existent counter-space. There was no garage, no basement, no storage area.

But there was an outside. There was an open green space with playground equipment that hardly anyone used if they were over five. And there was a glorious double-bump hillside that made perfect sledding conditions (perfect because the boys could thump over in their boots and I could stay in my warm abode!). And there were kids. Kids who also liked to play outside. Kids who knocked on the door at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. Kids who knocked at 8:00 pm on a school night. Kids that thrived on my boys’ energy and creativity. Kids who were great friends.

So the Saturday before Christmas, I moved over as many boxes as I could pack in the car with supplies to host our first “Cookie Day.” Many friends came out and we baked for hours (despite a nasty cold), creating 56 dozen cookies as the one oven browned sheet after sheet of dough. Sunday and Monday we packed and carted boxes. We cleaned some parts of the new house and some of the old. My sister tore up carpet and sanded two hardwood floors. And Christmas day after the excitement of gifts and a quick meal, we put polyurethane on the floors and opened all the windows. And when the moving trucks pulled out, my wonderful brother drove in from Ohio with two of his older daughters to finish up moving all the odds and ends.

It’s been anything but restful. Anything but quiet. But there has been a remarkable peace that has descended on the family. Christmas Eve I sent the boys down to the basement (“game room,” “man cave,” “den”…we haven’t settled on a name yet!) and I set up their rooms with beds and new blankets and put some select pieces of their school artwork (which I just framed the week before Christmas) on the floor as I didn’t have the tools or the energy to work on hanging them. I had name signs for each room. And The Little Guy jump around in his room with such joy and excitement to have his own space for the first time in his life.

Space. There’s now space for the boys to get away from each other to rest. There’s space in the kitchen (bless my mom and a couple great friends who helped clean and set it up) for me to experience joy and peace in preparing meals for the boys (I got tired of pizza and take-out pretty quickly!). There’s space to put the new hoverboards and electric scooters in the shed and the hand-me-down dirt bike that Mr. Ornery managed to fiddle with enough to get it working. There’s space to breathe and breathing feels very good.

And after three years, there’s a sense of settling and permanency. My brain is no longer searching and searching for the right house, the right location, the right school. It’s not perfect. I really intended to get a MUCH bigger yard for the boys, but it’s got great indoor space and a quiet flat road in front for their craziness.

I am so grateful for everyone who helped physically and emotionally with encouraging texts and messages and Facebook comments. There’s still much to do. I haven’t finished cleaning up the new place yet and there’s boxes upon boxes in “storage” at my sister’s and parents’ houses that need to move over.  But, a longtime friend said to me recently, “It’s so great to see how much you are enjoying that beautiful new home of yours.” And he’s right.

I’ve actually caught Super Tall Guy with smiles on his face!

Managing This “Season’s” Stress

The theme of this month seems to be figuring out how much stress my brain can manage before it entirely implodes.

I think I’m pretty close to that, although I seem to just yell a bit more at the boys and that releases some from the pop-off valve.

Given that it’s mid-December, there’s a great deal of excitement about the upcoming favorite day of the year. There’s been quite a bit of excitement about the daily Elf and his location search (for the younger two) and about the daily “Advent Bags” (which were lovingly packed by their grandmother) that reveal goodies. And there’s a great deal of excitement about moving to a new house. For the boys, these past few weeks have been filled with constant expectation and a lot of joy. (Not complete joy because their mother hasn’t been giving in to their every whim and desire for “stuff, but there’s been plenty of joy!) 

But for their mother, it’s been an endless stream of things to do and things forgotten. For one, until you go through the process, it’s pretty hard to understand the emotional energy and time required in purchasing a house. Inspection. Negotiations. Research on radon abatement (including an hour on the phone with a talkative radon guy when I essentially had just one question – will you get it down below the acceptable safe limit of 4!).  Finding, printing, signing, scanning, emailing financial papers after financial papers to the mortgage lender.

And then there’s the packing; that is, after finding a moving company. The man who came in to provide an estimate might have casually mentioned, “Looks like you need to start packing….” I took his advice and increased from my two-boxes-a-night pace to spending almost this entire weekend packing up the boys’ rooms, the kitchen, the storage area which hasn’t been touched in three years (hello, daddy long-legs!).

And….two boys have succumbed to upper respiratory infections (the fancy name for a cold) and the middle one has succumbed to pre-teen obnoxiousness (the fancy name for being a brat).

If this was the only stress for December, it might be tolerable. But interestingly, there’s also the impending expiration of the 5-year cycle of my “Maintenance of Certification” for my pediatric boards. So I’ve spend 15-20 hours in the evenings working on those requirements. Strangely, my Pennsylvania medical license is also due for renewal by the end of the month so that requires some additional “continuing medical education” credit hours. And then there’s the email from the hospital where I am credentialed that my TDaP vaccine needs to be updated by the end of the month; so now my arm is sore from squeezing that appointment in!  Oh….and  also the oil change because I’ve had the new car for three months now, so I had to pop in and get that done on the way home from work one day.

To top it off, it’s also The Little Guy’s first year in competitive gymnastics and he had his first competition at the beginning of the month. Fortunately it was in town and we didn’t have to travel, but his joy in winning first place for his age group in the Rings event made me realize I better get prepared for his next competition in January. It took awhile to book a hotel room at Splash Lagoon (a water park close to the competition site), but the boys are thrilled.

It’s gotten to the point of being humorous (almost). It’s definitely to the point where I am conscientiously spending my days telling myself to unclench my jaw and relax my shoulders. I’m reminding myself that this is a season of craziness and it will pass.  I’m reminding myself that we don’t have to do everything we usually do this time of year (I say as I compose this from the hard wooden bench at the ice-skating rink…since the boys “had” to get out of the house). I remind myself that things don’t have to be perfect; the boys will have fun no matter what I do, despite my personal pressure to make this move and this Christmas “special.” And I remind myself to get a good 7-8 hours of sleep (at least every third night….as there’s clearly some viruses around to fight off and supposedly good sleep makes moms less grouchy!).

And tonight I have a sneaky suspicion that my neighbor is right….Mr. Ornery has his first band concert tomorrow night. I’ll need to find some dress clothes for him. I don’t think I’ve packed those yet…..

Sigh, so when you see me and you think – “wow, your hair sure has gone gray” – I’m still blaming it on the boys and this time I’ll blame it on not having enough time to keep up with the dyeing!

Countdown to Christmas – yes, this Advent, I am grateful for the greatest gift two thousand-some years ago and the many blessings and gifts bestowed daily this month!

(Ahem…well, I’m off to make my list of things still needed for Cookie Day at the new house. It’s going to be a blast. I hope!)

 

 

Goodnight Home

The windmill stained glass window caught your eye the moment you walked in the front door. Sure you may have stumbled over the uneven flooring of the front porch, but isuoyn2bqy677e0000000000inside…inside the house was stunning. Over a hundred years old with built-in bookshelves, dark hardwood floors, and a back “secret” staircase, the most important thing about the house was that it first held our boys (and a couple foster girls along the way as well….one dog…countless not very hardy goldfish and a beta named Lightning McQueen who had amazing stamina).

A house is a house. Bricks are bricks. Wood is wood. But when a baby enters, a special kind of mystery takes place and memories are laid down deep within your heart.  The location of the bassinet. The crack of the bathroom stained glass from a well-placed kick. The corners where the boys hid. The games of hide-and-seek and monster’s going to get you! The walls become a home. The ceilings, the skies of your dreams. The kitche, the center of life. The bedrooms, the source of peace.

is6abdz8in5vad0000000000And yet, when a baby enters a dwelling, the world shifts. The priorities change. The once “easy access” street becomes the dreaded high-speed danger trap. The easy to maintain stamp back yard quickly becomes too boring and inadequate. And the worry of school choice and the need for better options gradually stalks close enough to you that you suddenly you wake up to boxes and plastic bins and moving vans and men who don’t really know anything about safe moving except that they needed the job that day.

After years “on the market,” my sister and I closed on the old Victorian house today. The next rambunctious little boy entered tonight. He’ll pick his room. He’ll unpack his “loveys” and his little cars and scatter some Legos across the hardwood floor to help his mom feel right at home. He’ll probably fuss for a bit. He’ll probably need some lights on for the ceilings are high and the shadows are deep. But soon he’ll find the scratches on the doorframe. Soon he’ll hide in the front closet. Soon he’ll wait for the wild raspberries out back to ripen. Soon he’ll know that those walls are his home. Soon he’ll be laying down memories to cherish and share and laugh about with family.

Goodnight great big house.

Goodbye wonderful home.

Thanks for the incredible memories.

Moving Day

“Okay, go!” I said to Super Tall Guy as we backed out of the driveway of the townhouse. “3 minutes, 21 seconds and 59 milliseconds,” he said as we pulled into the driveway of my sister’s new house.

One weekend. Two moves. Two sets of movers. Countless loads of boxes via theboxes2 minivans. Strong cousin. Saintly mother. Spackling father. Lamps. TV. Shoes. Books. Headache. Couches. Beds. Clothes. Numerous trips to Target. But no toothbrushes. No toothpaste. No toiletries. None. The boys rejoiced!

It’s been twelve years in an old Victorian house with stained glass windows, built-in wooden bookcases, three floors, and a hidden back staircase. It’s been the only home the boys have known. It’s been the place everyone called “home” until we moved for school and the extended family split up a bit to diminish the chaos and to stretch out a little.

I meant to get all sentimental about leaving “home” – but the stress of a quick move left the heart door closed. In fact 36 hours after dropping the last box packed for “moving day” onto the townhome floor, I actually texted my mom to say I like the space better than I thought I would. It’s small, clean and manageable (or it will be once all the boxes are emptied and flattened or donated to the lady next door who remarked she was moving soon too).

Somehow the boys seem to have forgotten to be sentimental too. They seem to be enamored by the chance to ride bikes and scooters up and down the street, bumping over the speed bump. They seem to appreciate the new neighbors — a 12-year-old and 7-year-old boy who pop out of their house the moment my car engine stops with a soccer ball in hand and eager faces! They seem to be enthralled by the closeness to “Auntie,” or maybe it’s the community pool that’s two houses away from Auntie’s house and has diving board!  Maybe they are managing this chaos better than I.

They are less excited about the New House, New Rules reality though:

  • See this – it’s a sink. Take your plate to the kitchen, rinse it in the sink, and….put it in the dishwasher!
  • These clothes? They’re yours. Sort them into three piles and each of you take them upstairs. And those things are called drawers – that’s where the clothes go! Not the floor!
  • And this new bunk bed? Yes, you may sleep on top…but the new rule is that you will stay in your own bed – all night! No more climbing into Mom’s bed between 1 and 3 am!  (Oh my goodness…3 days in and this rule is actually working!!)

There’s a whole lot of things still back at the “old” house. I had to stop there on the way to work yesterday to grab a pair of shoes for work. There’s tons of dust bunnies where the beds once sat. Empty candy wrappers line the edge of the wall having been dropped behind the couch. The closet is full of items that will move to the front yard for a yard sale in a few weeks (if it didn’t move to the town house in the first couple days as “essential,” then it actually isn’t essential!). The tall-ceiling rooms are eerily empty and echoes abound. The windows are closed. The doors are locked. But hopefully soon it will be filled again with love and joy and laughter as a new family finds their “home.”

 

 

Changes in the New Year!

The moment my sister carried out her son’s small vault, the tears welled. I didn’t expect to be crying. But it had been four very long and stressful weeks –  eldest son “let go” from his school, looking for a new school for the 3 boys, looking for new house in the right neighborhood to get to the “right” school that can handle “behavioral” problems. The stress gave way. I had visions of the boys not seeing each other anymore. Of Mr. Ornery never becoming a great gymnast because he doesn’t have The Flipper to keep encouraging him (I know – insane). It felt like the beginning of the end – such a huge change in the status quo, years in the making.

It wasn’t about the gymnastics – it was about a change in the boys’ relationships. It was about a change in the adult relationships. In the true sense of the phrase, I am a “single mom.” But I rarely think about it that way – because I have such a beautiful family. In essence, it has been more like two parents with five boys…..and incredibly supportive grandparents (incredibly supportive)! We have been one big (and mostly) happy family.

But suddenly, the “singleness” hit and I was afraid and so sad. It was the day after Christmas. My sister was making good use of “vacation” time to get the move done. Friends came over to carry out the couch. My father spent countless hours putting together a dining room table and chairs. My mother flitted around doing everything and anything.  I, however, was frozen in denial, dipping into sadness, punctuated by jealously (why do you get to move into the sparkling clean cute townhome with a master bedroom and your own private bathroom that likely won’t have “tinkles” on the toilet seat and gobs of kids’’Sparkle Fun’ toothpaste lining the sink?!?), sprinkled with shock at all the rapid changes.

Verklempt.

“It will be good to have some quiet,” she said. I nodded. It’s impossible to explain to anyone the mind-numbing, energy-zapping level of NOISE and motion that exists within the walls of this house with 5 boys ages 3 to 8. Super Tall Guy likes to poke at kids to get a response. The Flipper and Mr. Ornery either swing from the pull-up bar or set up gymnastics floor routines through the living room/parlour area. Mr. Trouble exists as a constant threat to everyone approaching his Ninja Warrior Nunchucks or swinging light saber. The Little Guy doesn’t know he’s little as he excitedly tackles Super Tall Guy to the ground and wrestled around while the dog squeals and hides when moving bodies collide into hers. It’s nonstop. It’s pandemonium. In an effort to survive,  I proclaimed the Holidays to be unlimited “screen time” (or there’d be no sense in calling it a “holiday” for anyone!).

A little bit of quiet. The truth is – it’s probably what we all need. A chance to let the boys develop a little bit of themselves as an individual instead of constantly in relationship to or in reaction to another child. A chance for my sister and I to figure out a little bit more about how we can parent our own children without all the clutter and chaos of who hit who? Who’s tattling on whom? Who’s fault is it really? Who’s toy was it first? (Like you even cared about that Nerf gun anyway…. until The Little Guy picked it up!)

It’s likely a really good thing for everyone to have a little more space. And, as my sister reminded me, it will just be a temporary time until we can figure out the next step. And, I still have the Thai house guest here at “the Big House” for another month, so I still have back-up help and am not completely “single” :).

It’s just been some crazy stressful few weeks. I’m super proud of my sister for just jumping in and getting everything together to create a new home for herself and the boys. And we’ve tried not to visit too much as New Yearthose walls are too flimsy for my boisterous boys (but come summer….when she can walk to the community’s swimming pool….she might need to adopt a few more little men!).

The schedule is going to be a lot to juggle as the three older boys begin in a new school in the morning. And there are going to be a great many kinks and glitches to iron out. But I have a terrific family and much hope in this New Year of New Beginnings!

 

 

 

 

The rush of time

This is how I know I’m stressed – when a friend offers to arrange a massage for me (AND watch the other kids….AND bring me Starbucks!) AND…. I actually consider it.  Never been a fan of massage, I hate to say….but I do know that all the muscles that I can still name from medical school anatomy class and the ones that I occasionally pull and can’t remember their name – they’re all pretty tight right now!!

The other way to tell that life is in that “stress” mode is the lateness of this post. When your brain is filled with the “have-to’s,” there’s very little space for the creative. Yet, if you pause enough, it will come.

Every single year I have high hopes for Advent. Teaching the boys about patience and waiting (“I hate waiting”). Focusing on hope, love, joy and peace (“It’s my turn to blow out the Advent wreath candles!” “No, you blew them out last night!”). Thinking about service and how we care for others (“Oh man, I’ll just get that Angel Tree gift myself this year”). Starting new traditions that will carry on year after year and become that lore in adulthood of “well, when I was a child, we always did…..at Christmas.”

When I struggle to slow time down – it has a way of speeding right along.

Literally, this Advent season has been:

  • Choose a new school district for the boys from (thankfully) some really great choices. My sister and I have thought about which district we would prefer “in theory” for a few years now, but we suddenly needed to make the decision….like yesterday!
  • Put up Christmas tree top-heavy with the “fragile” ornaments
  • boy tree_wp
  • Tape up a strand of Christmas lights around the door frame
    • Re-tape
    • Re-tape
    • Tape again
    • “Stop playing with these lights!!”
  • Find a place to live – not only within the school district but in the “zone” that feeds into the elementary school that handles kids with “special emotional/behavioral needs”
    • Search for places online – Thanks, sis, for handling the brunt of this!
    • Visit homes for rent, townhomes, apartments
    • Agonize
    • Look at more, change mind, get close (oh, wait, this place doesn’t take dogs!)
    • Sign lease
  • Fill Advent calendar boxes with candy
    • Forget to open a box every day – our calendar says it’s December 7th – we have LOTS of shopping days left!
  • Complete paperwork for neuropsych evaluation intake appointment for Super Tall Guy
    • Freak out the morning of the appointment when the forms are who knows where
    • Out-smart 8-year-old to get him in the car to go to the appointment
    • Pat self on back for remembering to charge and bring along the DS game system
    • Groan when informed, “Mom, there’s no game in this DS”….ugh!
  • Thank Grandma for bringing over “Advent Bags” filled with toys/treats for each evening of Advent
    • Forget to open them after day 5 or 6 – we’ll just save them for next year (Did we say that last year?)
  • Complete (redundant, endless) paperwork for school enrollment for two boys
  • Find central admin office just in time for school enrollment appointment
    • Freak out in parking lot over who has the copy of the lease – really – honestly – the ONLY important paper we need today
    • Sweat bullets over whether all the forms are done correctly as the administrator slowly marches down the checklist – check, check
  • Complete paperwork and behavioral forms for behavioral assessment intake appointment for Super Tall Guy
    • Huh, he is pretty challenging
  • Bake brownies for
    • Christmas party #1
    • Christmas party #2
    • 2nd Grade Christmas party
    • Kindergarten Christmas party
    • Oh, you want some for your second-grader as well??
  • Battle with self-will to NOT go in to Toys R Us
    • Lose battle
    • Spend too much (again) on the boys
  • Sit on the couch
  • Turn off the lights
  • Soften Christmas music
  • Cuddle with sleeping dog
  • Get lost in the glow of the tree lights
  • Breathe
  • (message friend to accept massage offer….)

Want to slow down time? Just do it.

Happening just so fast!

I got home at midnight tonight (well, technically, 11:46pm) from a grant-writing meeting (another story) and had to rearrange two boys.  I carried Micah up from his snoring paradise on my sister’s bed to my bed (lacking sheets which are still in the laundry due to Micah’s occasional pull-up failure) and I picked Noah up off the tiny floor rug outside his room and placed him in the snuggly arms of a huge brown stuffed-animal bear which Seth is too scared of to claim as his Christmas present.

As I carried the boys, I thought how strange it is going to be soon to change this routine – because our house just sold!!   Yes, we’re shocked.  It’s been on the market for two years.  I’ve been mentally exhausted just thinking about it.  I’ve been physically exhausted by all the cleaning for showings (and by carrying boxes and boxes of things downstairs to “hide,” only to find them months later and food past its expiration dates!).  And yet, now that the reality is here, I can’t even adjust to it.  Of course, I’ve been too busy to even think about it (or even to celebrate it – though we did pop the bottle of bubbly….sparkling apple juice….that was in the fridge for the boys!!).

Congratulations!

Congratulations!

But now the questions begin.  How in the world are we going to get this house packed up in the next 6 weeks? (Guess those boxes I kept carrying to the basement are all ready to go!)  Where in the world are we going to move?  (That seems like a relatively important question…)  And how am I going to help the boys transition through this? (Was Micah’s aggressive acting out today a response to the shift in stress and energy that he felt move through the house?)  Why am I feeling depressed even though I’ve been so eager to move? (Change is hard….and this house is huge – and we won’t find such space anywhere else…and this is all going to take a great deal of energy….)

As if this isn’t enough for my poor brain to process….it follows closely on the heels of finding out that the “Termination of Parental Rights” went through for Seth.  He is cleared for adoption.  I am cleared for adopting him.  The caseworker came to visit the night the offer came in for the house.  I did hear about it via email on Monday (though the court hearing was last Friday…and I had to wait nervously all weekend to get the results!).  Monday was a busy evening and I quickly made a cake from a mix that I found (not expired in the basement) and since I couldn’t find the frosting tubes, I wrote out “TPR” in M&Ms (red and green from Christmas) on the top.  Lit some candles, took some pictures, let boys dig into chocolate gooey mess….there – we acknowledged it.

But it’s all just moving.  So fast.  And I can’t keep up with processing through it yet.  For the past 20 months, I have been Seth’s mom (even if he calls Kathy “mommy” too sometimes….).  He has been my son.  He has been the brother of the boys.  He has already gone through a name change.  But next month, he will officially change his name (not him….but the judge will sign a piece of paper….and a new birth certificate will be printed….and a woman named Hannah will no longer have any documentation of having a little boy….three little boys…..).  And a few weeks later, I will receive a piece of paper that has Lynne listed as “legal mother” under Seth’s name and birthdate and an “Adoption Certificate” which proclaims that this happened February 12th, 2013.

And I will say “whew,” and then it might sink in.  That Seth is forever part of my family.  That the man who thought he was biological father until proven otherwise is now part of history.  That there will be no more “odd” visitations to the county jail for Seth to spend time with a stranger (his birth mom).  That I can call him “my son” without the qualifier “foster….who will hopefully be adopted”… That I am now responsible for three wild and wonderful boys.  Oh boy.

At the beginning of the year, I sent an email to a friend:
My dreams for this year:
– adopt Seth
– sell this house and move!
– open up Jeremiah’s Place – the crisis nursery

Let’s see how that all works.

What I didn’t mean is for all of this to happen in the first months of the year (the crisis nursery project has taken off and I have two grants due at the end of the month….even though I have no idea how to write a grant!!!).

What I do know is that I’m going to have to find time to let all of this sink in.  That I’m going to have to find ways to help the older boys let this all sink in.  That as I become harried and stressed, that the boys will pick up on that and feel harried and stressed as well.   So, instead of starting the packing….instead of searching for a house to rent on the internet….instead of doing anything productive, I let the boys play outside in the “snow box” while I cleaned out the car.

Such gooey brown slime

Slouching in the recesses of the cup holder

You let go of the smothered keys with a long stranded release

I wash you out with clean pure water.

Oh, wrinkly brown grapes

Hiding under the car seat mat

You dream of becoming raisins in the sun

I toss you out with the hardened cheese.

Dear crumbs, crumbs, crumbs

Sprinkling the floor, the seats, the mats

You long for relief from the trampling of feet

I suck you out with the green vacuum.

Oh car, my dearest van —

You seem so clean today.

Why don’t we drive off tomorrow…

Without the boys!