At the end of the day

**We’re having a flash giveaway of an Ergo brand baby carrier: Click here to read how!  Ends Monday 10/8/12!**

So done.  I am almost ready to read a parenting book.  I have nothing left.  My children are behaving like they are on a sitcom.  Walk-ons in a sitcom where naughty children who are too bad to find endearing bring a rain of destructiveness and meanness down on the maligned main character.  Somebody please take over.

Loving them when I can’t like them

I have been trying for the past three days to dig out from the laundry and destruction they have created, and if anyone so much as breathes a sigh that sounds like “make them help you clean it up” I will Chuck Norris roundhouse you through this computer screen.  When the only good part of your day was Facebook, you know it was a complete waste.  And that’s even with my “super-homeschool mom” trip to a country park to walk the trails to find different kinds of leaves for our leaf book.  J and L wouldn’t hear of it and said “I’ll just see them on the ground.”  I don’t even have a picture to show you because it was so obnoxious that even the dog ran away.  (She did come back, covered in rank duckweed and slime.)

The coup de gras (which as a Spanish student, loosely translates to me as “top of fat”) was the complete sham of a bedtime routine we just pulled together that spanned the ranks from JR putting his pull-up on upside down in bed with his feet banging the wall during prayers to Lumpy having a complete fit about using the potty.  It was a battle I wasn’t about to lose, after spending each morning clogging up the washer for the first three loads of the day with tinkle duty since Friday.  Growth spurts hit this family hard.  As I was reduced to yelling at Lumpy to get her pull-up on, I realized that there was no parenting happening.  Just a full-on fight.  Parents versus kids.  Her only need was to say no to me.  My only need was to get her to comply.

You’re expecting me to say something like “and that’s when I took a deep breath and realized…”  But no.  Heck-freakin’ no.  All day long that little girl pushed me and disobeyed me and taunted me.  This garbage has to end.  I gave her space.  I let her twist her actions into compromises.  I was firm.  I put her in time out.  But at the end of the day, there was nothing left to teach.  Unlike JR, she never tantrumed and raged uncontrollably.  She fought tenaciously.  I got the pull-up on her, but I can’t say that I won.  I set her, screaming, in the bed and walked away, disgusted with it all.

Fine, laugh at me, but I really am trying my best, and don’t know why my kids don’t appreciate it.  But, I’m not supposed to say that, because that’s the kind of weakness older people see as an excuse to make a condescending comment about.  And I would tell someone this: Kids aren’t ever going to appreciate anything, because they are inherently selfish, as they were made to be.  Yes, I know that.  But what it feels like is that I must have done something wrong.  I must have ruined the day and spoiled my kids.

But in the middle of this lump of poop day, JR wrote down his own song today called “I love God.”  Cal pushed Hoss on the swing while I took Lumpy to the Port-a-Potty.  And Lumpy stopped pulling Hoss’ arm out of the socket when he screamed and bent down really low and asked “Hey, Hoss, do you want to be the princess now?”  And, I got Lumpy back and sweet again in time for a good night kiss.

At the end of the day, when all of my efforts were for nothing, sometimes all I get is a small reminder that I can try again tomorrow.

Concerned

People who don’t know us and insult us are trolls and don’t deserve our attention.

But, people who do know us, and ask about our adoption with no interest in ever agreeing with us call themselves concerned. These are not the people who are concerned at first and want to hear how we are planning to do this, with a chance of saying “ok, then I’m pulling for you.” These are people who are concerned after we talk. They are still concerned after they read my blog. They are very concerned after they hear us “beg for money.”

The only way to explain it is that some people think it’s sinful to throw away a comfortable life for you and your kids by pursuing and bringing such a happiness time-bomb into your life.

These people don’t know about our kind of happiness. As gently as I can, I want to explain.

My kids aren’t happy because we are care-free.
My husband isn’t in love with me because I look a certain way.
I am not in love with my husband because he has a good job.
We are not secure because our bank accounts are full.
We are not promised able bodies because we were born with them.
We are not lucky because our biological children were all born healthy.

My kids are happy because we love them, discipline them, and meet their needs.
My husband is in love with me because he knows my heart.
I am in love with my husband because he is fully available to our family.
We are secure because God has promised to meet our needs.
We are promised a life bigger than any we could plan, sometimes through adversity.
We are lucky because all of our children have been hand-picked by God for us.

I know that the origin of their concern is love. But when the concern has no end, and we are willing to walk away if God sets a roadblock before us, it begs the question what should a family that rescues a child with Down syndrome from an Eastern European orphanage look like?

Should they be childless?
Should they be wealthy?
Should they have a sibling with Down syndrome?
Should they be experienced special needs caregivers?
Should they be older?
Should their children be older?

Because Reeces Rainbow alone has 500 children waiting for someone who qualifies. Are there 500 families in the United States right now who meet all of those criteria?

But how could Psalm 68:6 be true, then? God sets the lonely in families.

Well, why isn’t God doing this anymore? Why is He abandoning these children?
Oh yeah. He’s not. Families who are called don’t have the energy to fight all of their concerned relations. It’s just too radical.

And there are just so many orphans, why not pick one who has a shot at a normal life? Those “Downs babies” will never give anything back.

The mom of Andrew Banar would beg to differ. The mom of Dylan Keuhl would beg to differ. The mom of Sarah Ely would beg to differ.

And I know why these people are concerned. They see us and know we are not saints. They see us and truly believe that the reason we are happy, and they are not, is because we have everything good going for us now. Because they want our kind of happiness, which they see as founded on luck and circumstances. And we are gambling with it. Using our happiness and our children as the ante in a delusional poker game. How is this fair to our “real” children? Why can’t we just take care of what’s at home? How will we ever retire?

Your mission field is in your home already.

So, here’s what I cannot explain. Our kind of happiness does not come from events. Our kind of happiness does not come from luck, or health, or from fertility, or from money. These things only enhance our happiness. The source of our happiness is a peace in our hearts that tells us that no one is forgotten by our Maker. Our happiness created a marriage based on trust, and compassion. Our happiness allowed us to give up control over the size of our family. Our happiness sustained our decisions when we chose to birth at home. Our happiness has caused us to live a life that concerned friends and family consider far too radical to be rational.

And if what I have just said does not make your brain flood with peace, then I can never explain your concerns away. We are in this world. We are not of this world. We dare to love like God has loved us.

And in a few short weeks, you will be able to look at our precious, perfect boy. Let’s say we get all the way there, and he is not available to be adopted anymore. It doesn’t matter. If he is well, and is being loved, we will rejoice. Because we know every step we are taking is not for our personal benefit. It’s to grow the family God has placed in our care. To safeguard the child He has chosen for us. To advocate for the children we will be leaving behind.

And, if you read my words, and want this kind of happiness, but don’t want this kind of calling, it’s ok. God will never shove you into international adoption kicking and screaming. No one has ever accidentally ended up adopting except in a Hallmark movie. We offered God our lives when we committed to become a family, when we married in the Catholic church. God offered us His life when He offered His son on Calvary. If we believe that He loves us and cares for us more than we could, and loves our children–all of our children–more than we could, how is this little boy, who needs our undivided attention for three 10-day trips and a Chevy Suburban’s worth of funds, be remotely considered anything but a blessing? He asks for so little. Our city is overwhelmed with resources and opportunities, and understanding. We are not special. We are barely sacrificing. We are continuing our lives, but adding an extra child. A child who will present greater challenges because he was institutionalized for a year than because he has 47 chromosomes. We are prepared to meet these challenges as best as we can, and God will equip us for the rest.

And now, if you still consider yourself concerned, I beg you to please do so silently. Don’t talk about us to our families, don’t speak about us when we are not there. If you wanted to know, if your heart was open to change, it would happen. I will pray that it does.

But we are pursuing Thadius’ adoption because God has made a way for us to pursue it. Your continued concern will only bring unhappiness for you and separation from us.

We are not concerned at all.

***

We have been so honored to be in contact with the young men and woman mentioned above. We will be featuring Dylan’s art and Andrew’s products in our Auction to Bring Thadius Home, being held via Facebook from 8/15/12 until 8/31/12. We are delighted to share in Sarah’s passion for all things Ohio State by offering our supporters “the chance to be in the band.

The Evolution of Snacktime

Our ‘special needs adoption’ fundraising giveaway continues! Click here to donate to Thadius and be entered to win up to $500 as an Amazon gift card or for the Reece’s Rainbow child of your choice!

When you put 3,000 miles on the car in 7 days with four small children in tow, there comes a point when a parent must scream: “Enough! We are officially Missourians because I cannot drive for another mile!”

For us, 3 weeks ago, it was Branson.

Yes, the butt of all “giving up on exciting vacations, going to Branson” jokes.  But that afternoon, it was an oasis.

We found a great deal online, and booked 3 nights of staying in one place, because we honestly had no choice.  We were all out of gas.  We bought tickets to 2 days in Silver Dollar City for less than the cost of one day in Disney World for one adult, and found a little banjo-picking amusement park with shade and wholesome family fun galore.

After spending an hour in an air-compressor-fueled, nerf-ball laced, 4 storey shooting gallery, we took our first break of the day.  Fortunately we were permitted to bring a small cooler in, so we did.     And there we witnessed the evolution of snacktime.  Rarely captured on film.

It is a gem I share with you now.  Think of it as a comic strip come to life.

I’m holding the bag, that means it’s mine.

Whatever.

If I can just lean back like this…

You see what she’s doing, right?

Do I look like a child?

You can’t see me.

Oh man…

Mom wouldn’t have let me hold the bag if she wanted you to have any.

Or maybe you’re just not sharing.

Your faulty logic leaves me reeling.

Allow me to clarify. Missouri civil code 163.7 clearly states that pursuant to…

I am living with baboons.

I Yelled at the Blueberry Muffins

Our adoption fundraising giveaway continues! Click here to donate to Thadius and be entered to win up to $500 as an Amazon gift card or for the Reece’s Rainbow child of your choice!

The past month, we have been on the road.  Between running a half-marathon, Andy’s work schedule, visiting relatives, and attending a wedding in Texas, we haven’t been home together for more than 4 days in the past 6 weeks.  That is insane.

On Saturday morning, we decided to stay close to home, and visit an easy-to-access pick-your own blueberry patch.  Do you hear down home wholesome guitar music yet?  Let me lower your expectations.  Our family cannot do any task-oriented activity for more than 30 minutes.  It just doesn’t happen.  This was a “fill as many buckets as you could before JR started beating the trees with his bow and arrow, before Lumpy eats herself sick, and before Hoss empties the bucket as quickly as we were filling it” kind of thing.  Cal, of course, loved the whole thing–picking a respectable amount of berries.

Here are some necessarily adorable pictures, selected to make it look like we didn’t leave because Lumpy was laying on the grass, spread eagle from a blueberry-induced sugar coma, and like JR wasn’t crying for his bow back.  Humor me.

Hoss blueberry picking. Can’t. Stand. The. Cuteness.

Cal requested we come back to pick blueberries for her birthday. Done.

The blueberries never had a chance.

We got home and went to our wonderful new neighbor’s house for a birthday party.  The kids had a blast.

By the time we got home, Cal requested brinner (breakfast for dinner…I told you I love Scrubs), so I started making my favorite blueberry muffins.  Cue up wholesome music again here…

This time I remembered to make the crumbly brown sugar topping as soon as the batter was done, then proceeded to fill the muffin cups.

Wait. Something’s missing. Look again…

That’s right.  The blueberries.  (Insert yelling at blueberry muffins.) Do-over.  Squish muffin cups back into bowl. (no photographs available)

Add blueberries.  Mix with more vigor than absolutely necessary.  

Shove with gusto into oven.

And that’s how we had the most delicious blueberry coffeecake for dinner.

Made with love.

*****

*Any donations of $10 or more made to our tax-deductible FSP or immediately available Chip-in for the next 3 days will receive my secret (not gross) whole wheat blueberry muffin/coffeecake recipe via email.  You won’t be sorry!

Just for you Colleen: Starting today, anyone who donates $115 to either fund will receive a batch of 12 muffins in the mail from me.  Not kidding.  Freshly milled white whole wheat flour, hand picked Michigan blueberries.  Seriously.  You’ve never tasted anything like it!  (International shipping will be at cost ;)

Smell the Rhodies

Today the kids and I went to the local, stunning, reasonably priced exhibition garden. Through some big money grants in the 50’s, the city now boasts a gardener’s paradise using native species and highlighting strange 50’s-era post-modern architecture.  It’s weird, but it fits.

The purpose of our visit today was to kick off the summer with the implementation of Field Trip Tuesdays.  Our mission: to see my closest Auntie Jay’s beloved rhododendrons in bloom.  We probably won’t be going out to the west coast soon (cheapest airfare for a family of 6, free lap baby, was $2800), and I want to encourage the kids’ connections to her.  So, we looked up some rhododendron facts–some species can make honey poisonous to humans, or kill a horse in a few hours!

But, the most important thing to Cal is that we all call them “rhodies,” like Auntie Jay does.  So we do.

Cal and the first rhodie in sight.

As we walked along, Cal captured a few more pictures for her field journal, and logged the best names on construction paper and a clipboard she put together before we left.

JR and Lumpy raced up and down a stairway of concrete circles, and for a moment, I lamented that my only camera was on my iPhone.  The letters “SLR” flashed past my eyes.  I could really see this one, caught with a hummingbird’s heartbeat shutter speed.  Then I looked at the stroller, overflowing with baby carrier, lunch, blanket, sunhats, and baby.  I snapped this subpar shot and called it good:

Run, boy, run!

We walked past the azalea archipelago, we turned down rhododendron trail to find a shady spot for lunch.  As I attempted to keep up with Hoss’ chronic demands for more go-gurts (I’m weak) and Lumpy’s obsessive shoe removal, a mom, dad, and two small kids walked by.

The little girl couldn’t have been more than 18 months, but her parents were pleading with her to smell the flower, as Mom stood with her camera ready.  “Sissy, smell the flower,” begged Mom.  “Smell the flower,” Dad chimed in instantly afterward.  Her refusal was met with “Ok, I’ll just get a picture of Daddy smelling the flower, then.”

None of this was said in a harsh way, or was actually anything out of the ordinary.  It has become the norm in our society to stop everything for the perfect staged candid shot.  Aren’t those the ones that make us gasp at the beauty of childhood?

Now, here’s the deal.  Most of those incredible shots are real moments.  Really real.  What makes them special is that they were captured moments.  Not created ones.  It takes luck, skill, and often, a pretty swank camera to pull this feat off.

It seems like every outing with our children should turn into an adventure for them to learn, not an opportunity to compose a beautiful photo for our scrapbooks, emails, and Facebook friends.  A swank SLR camera is a tool, not a license to turn children into models, who are only experiencing their childhoods as one photoshoot after another.

Now, I have no problem with a good staged “cheese” photo, don’t get me wrong:

Parmesan, traditional.

But, I wish more parents would stop to take a photo class if their desire to be a great photographer is brimming over. Pictures capture moments, they don’t create them, and certainly don’t stage them.

That being said, I am no great phtographer. I don’t have a swank camera. but my kids do have moments. Lots of them. And if my iPhone is handy, and luck and lighting are on my side, I sometimes catch a memory in the making. That’s what matters to me.

Hoss checks in.

Teamwork

Pants really just hold you back.

Now that I have set the guidelines, I feel quite confident an SLR camera will not be a hindrance to my children’s childhood. Oh yes, very confident.

Bad Run

Let’s start off by saying that I am a huge runner.  Not in the “huge part of my life” huge, but the “size 16, dear gussie, didn’t I see her in that Sweatin’ to the Oldies video” huge.  And, I am at Peace with how I look.  My body size has absolutely nothing to do with this post. That being said, I am also pretty in shape.

I know, because I just ran for 2 hours, 45 minutes straight (well, except that potty break we all took).   That’s right, a real half-marathon.  Well, one without timing chips, water stations, numbered bibs, or blaring music at the finish line.  Just two women who wanted to know if they could.

Well, we can.

I started running again last August when my buddy S said something ridiculous like “let’s run a 5 k in October, a 10 k in November, and a half-marathon on Memorial Day.”  I agreed, with the same indulgence I gave my kids when they tell me we are a shipwrecked family of dogs who are trying to get away from a band of evil kitty pirates for the afternoon.  That’s sweet.

Our 5 k went well, but I was sidetracked by surgery in mid-October.  When a mutual friend heard about our idea, she cheered us on, and began re-training for a half-marathon herself, despite being just a couple months postpartum.  At the end of January, I figured I better get serious if we wanted to do this thing.

S is a super-motivated, organized go-getter, but in this insanely balanced and admirable way.  She’s just such a better grown-up than me.  I loved our early morning runs, both of us keeping that perfect pace of being able to talk, but not sing.  We watched our runs go from grueling 3 milers to rewarding 10k’s and eventually up to a 9 miler that didn’t destroy the rest of the Saturday.  Unfairly, I took full advantage of my 6AM therapy session, and we laughed, and talked, and learned that, no matter how good the run, the first 2 miles will always suck.

We bought fuel belts and energy wafers, and actually felt the difference after we used them.  We looked into pacing and bought new shoes, and stretched far too little.  One week we warmed up quickly, but S had refused to leave her coat  on a bench we would be returning to in 2 more miles, because “someone could take it!”  California girl, I taunted.   With intentional bravado, I left my first racing shirt on the bench the following week.  When we returned 30 minutes later, the shirt was gone, and hasn’t been turned in to the lost and found, either.  I like to think an enormous bird of prey swooped down and is lining her nest with my Turkey Trot 5 mile victory t-shirt.

We saw herds of deer and listened to the chirping of frogs open up the spring morning.  And we talked some more.  When I say training was a joy, I really mean it.

So, the morning of our race, a few of S’s amazing friends came to join us on our run.  I mean, seriously, amazing.  A beautiful mother of 5 who was just finishing chemo, but had run the last Boston marathon.  A mother of 6 who has this amazing, balanced life, and as in-shape as a 17-year old.  Standing next to these two women, I felt amazed.  Inspired.  Inadequate.

They were loving and supportive, and taking time out of a packed day to take these steps with us.  And when we started out, all I could think of was “If we keep running this fast, I won’t make it a mile!”  And they were really slowing it down for us.  After a few miles, we reached the “finish” for the Boston marathoner, as she had a lot to get done that day.  I was so grateful to have her there.  What couldn’t I do if she could do that?

And then, I realized the answer: “Um, you couldn’t run a marathon, that’s for darn sure.  You cannot keep up with these women who are slowing everything down to barely get their heart rates up, and you are a poser.  An egotistical poser, who has been posting these huge runs on facebook, but really, you aren’t in the same league.”

Dang, that sounds harsh, but I swear it’s true still.

We ran that whole 13.1 miles, and at the end, with the encouragement of our experienced mother of 6, and our families cheering us on, S and I finished our race.  My two dearest friends in town met us at the finish line with home-made medals and Chuck Norris signs.  Who could ask for more?

The BLD Fam came at 9:30AM to cheer me at the Finish Line

But, like a strange darkness, I felt incredibly deficient.  I am having a hard time explaining it.  Even with a 5 minute restroom stop, we came up with a pace of 12:45 per mile or so.  And it was too fast.  I felt a little tired, had even said I couldn’t sprint to the end, because I didn’t want that headachy/ruined feeling that accompanies it.

And writing that, just now, trying to figure it out, it has just hit me.

I didn’t want to give it my all.

Because my all is just nowehre near these incredible women who ran with us.  Nowhere near my friend who PR’d her half the previous week by 10 minutes.  I had been running to feel like I had achieved something.  Maybe in the anonymity of a large race, where I didn’t know the stories of the women who whizzed by me, I wouldn’t have to admit that giving it my all was just not enough to be impressive.

You ran 10 miles?  Impressive.  You didn’t see your time?  No big deal.

But seeing myself being pushed to the 99% of your physical ability (you know, just shy of puking), I really wanted to say, no thanks.  80% is all I ever really want to give to running.  I have a whole rest of the day to get on with.   I have things I might succeed at waiting for me.  I am willing to drop this endeavor like a bad habit.

But, running with those two women, who S brought in as our inspiration, just made me see how far from awesome my 80% was.

And, as I went home and stood in the scalding hot shower, stretching my calves, I wished I hadn’t done it.  I wished I could go back to just me and S, running our 8 miler a few weeks ago, not knowing how far from the extraordinary I was.  We got a flat tire, and I had to take over getting the kids to their first t-ball game alone, and I was physically destroyed.

I honestly could think of nothing else, especially when Andy got angry that the kids were being so rotten, except this was the single most selfish thing I had ever done.

What the hell is this?  The devil?  The Holy Spirit convicting me of sin?  A days-long energy drop from the runner’s high?

I just couldn’t say.  But, I do know that I will run the one more half-marathon I signed up for, at a nice leisurely pace, in four weeks.  And that will probably be it.

Maybe a weekly 5-miler or something.

But this just doesn’t feel right.  Right now, this bad run is worse than if I had just slept through my 5AM alarm that morning.

Now what do you make of that?

Am, not Was

I would like to remind myself, who has been feeling very bummed that I wasn’t more mature as a child, that I have changed for the better since becoming an adult.

To point:

-I manage all of our family finances, and have for the past 8 years.  I get all the bills paid, the taxes in on time, and manage our budget. 

-I have only bought one loaf of bread in the past 4 months because I committed to making our bread from scratch. 

-I plan all of our family vacations, buy airfare, and pack, prioritizing family visits above all else.

-I feed 4 children, dress 3, diaper 2, and nurse 1 every day.  I have been nursing or pregnant for the past 7 years.  Or a combined 99 months.  Every day.

-I have cloth diapered for nearly three years.

-I have been working out consistently for the past 2 years straight, even when it means waking up at 5:20AM to meet my running buddy at 6AM when it’s 38 degrees and drizzly.

-I have maintained friendships that are 15 years old.

-I have made and given at least as many meals as I have received.

-I have held a job that required my college degree, and did it well. 

-I canned more than 100 jars for Christmas gifts this year.

-I committed to a parenting style and stuck with it when it was harder on the parents than the kids. 

-I have maintained relationships with family even when it seemed impossible.

-I forgive unconditionally.

-I know and relate the provenance of every recipe I ever make and pass along the story with the food, because people make food better (in the least soylent green way possible).

-I stood by my commitment to God, my husband, and community to honor my marriage vows.  Every day.  For the past seven and a half years.  Without excuse.  Without exception.

-I have maintained this blog for two years.  My words have been accessed more than 5000 times.

In fairness, things I always will suck at:

-Keeping the house in bristol fashion.

-Being a morning person.

-Remembering birthdays.

-Tending the garden after August.

-Losing weight.

-Reading the Bible.

-Giving my kids my full attention when I am writing or reading something compelling (though I am capable of avoiding such things because I am, indeed, quite disciplined).

-Being on time when my kids are anywhere near me.

So, I couldn’t wake up or do my homework consistently when I was a kid.  So, I never finished sending out the thank you cards from our wedding.  So my husband does the dishes and is wonderful and that gives me a warped perception of my improvement.

All of these things may be true, but I am the woman I am now.

Please stop sobering me with the harsh reality of my imperfect personality.  Trust me, I’m sober.  I am as good as my word.  And my word might be late, but it is good.

I am not who I once was.

In other news, we will be doing a trial of homeschooling for Cal for the next two weeks.  Yes, I am scared I won’t be good enough, that we have too many little ones to do this well, and that we’ll send the wrong message.  This is still the best option.  This is what my husband, whose words you never hear, so must think I invent, and I have decided.  We need everyone rooting for us.  We’re not doing this to be trendy, or difficult.

Please keep us in your prayers,  and especially Cal, as we risk our peace again to spare nothing for the best interest of our children.  If we don’t when we can, how can we look ourselves in the mirror every day?

I also can no longer be found on Facebook, so please send any correspondence to biglittledays@gmail.com.  Birth anxiety and self-destructive parenting lovingly beaten into submission free of charge, as always.