He Loves Me No Matter What

I LOVE HER

I walk into her bathroom and I spy some blush and lip gloss on the counter. It’s a new thing for us. It throws me back to my teen years, trying all the Wet ‘n Wild and Cover Girl, figuring out just the right shade against my pale skin, mousy brown hair and freckles. I smile when I think of those same freckles splayed across her nose and wonder if she realizes how beautiful I think they are.

I was scared of these days–this transition from little girl to woman. I dreaded them, closed my eyes and sighed when I thought of them. I think I thought some strange version of my little girl would emerge suddenly, one I wouldn’t recognize, or like. We’re only in the beginning; the wrestling has just begun. But, so far, I’m saying this stage is my favorite. She’s the same little girl and yet with so much more humor and understanding. We can look at each other and say things without a word. The years have taught us our own language.

And yet, at every stage I’ve said it’s my favorite. As it turns out, I love her no matter what.

Read more over at Jessica Hoover’s place today.

A First Thanksgiving

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I’ve hinted at it a bit in the last few posts, but the past few weeks has had some difficult moments.  Some time in October we felt like we’d hit a breaking point and things were on the upswing.  But then, it seems that we began trekking through another difficult time. I heard that this is normal–to rotate through peaks and valleys during transition.

Jac0b’s teachers felt like he was “off”,  Jac0b and Lexi started butting heads again, even Scott and I weren’t getting along.  Last Monday Lexi “ran away” to our side yard. I had to have a “pep talk” with her, as she calls them.  Once we signed the final adoption papers at the beginning of November and then got our court date, it seems Satan went on the attack again trying to cause strife in our family.

But then this weekend.

This long holiday weekend was exactly what we needed.

On Thursday for Thanksgiving, we ate lunch and dinner with our families in town. I was sitting at dinner and thinking back to one of our first dinners at my parents’ after we got Jac0b and realizing how much better I knew him.  I knew which dishes on the table he would eat and which he wouldn’t. I had an idea of how much food he could eat. I could tell how far to push with him and knew when Scott’s banter was too much.  I wasn’t just so entirely grateful that last year he wasn’t at our table and this year he was, but that these 4 months of hard work were paying off.  We know each other so much better now.

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And then, as we were eating, I noticed that Lexi and Jac0b were unnecessarily shoulder to shoulder eating their dinner.  In fact, the entire weekend all 3 kids spent the weekend playing nice with each other.

Jac0b hasn’t gotten an “X” on his behavior chart in nearly a week. In fact, somewhere on Friday he said, “Why isn’t there anything on any of these days?” He was working so hard this weekend to get more and more checkmarks (we give for sharing, going the extra mile, compliments, etc).

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He told me Friday night while I was putting him to bed that he was excited to go to court (17 days!). I was ecstatic because it’s the first time he’s indicated to me he was happy about it. I mean, I knew it meant a lot to him, but he hasn’t expressed downright excitement about it. He told us he wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese on the court date to celebrate and he said he was excited to go there too.  I asked him which he was more excited about and he said, “Court.”  Melt my heart!

I can tell our relationship is making progress too because he’s started to connect me with good things.

He found that I had picked out his favorite ice cream in the freezer and I heard him in the kitchen say, “Lexi, Mommy has mint ice cream!” I love that he attributed it to me.  He’s learning that I pay attention and give him good things.

When he was doing his DORE exercises and got a good assessment on that round, he made a point to come in the other room where I was and say, “Mommy, I got all easy on my exercises today.” He was playing cool, but I could tell he was proud of himself and I couldn’t be more happy that he wanted me to be proud of him too.

Sunday afternoon we were walking through some stores in town where it was all girl-stuff.  He said, “This is why I didn’t want to be in this family!” He’s made comments before about not wanting two (annoying) sisters. But then, he quickly corrected himself and said, “I mean, I AM happy to be in this family.”  A few months ago, he would have let the first barb sit there, not caring that our feelings were probably  hurt.

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Sunday night he was leaving after dinner to go play with a neighbor and he came right back inside and said with such wonder, “Mommy, Mr. Rich has his lights up!” We’d been waiting all week for the big light-up. I followed him outside and our neighbor had outdone himself.  I literally almost started crying at Jac0b’s childlike wonder at the lights and how they were truly beautiful–and how he came to get me to see them too.

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I suppose I share all those little snippets of our weekend to simply say this first Thanksgiving weekend together couldn’t have gone better. I hope this is yet another turning point.  I’m sure it’s possible once we jump back into routine of school and work that tensions might rise again, but this long weekend was just the respite that we all needed.

I couldn’t be leaving this first Thanksgiving weekend of ours more grateful and ready to jump into the Advent season. I hope you and yours had a good one too.

 

Sponges, Narratives and Nets and a Few Bad Days

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I’ve spent the last 7 days or so in a bad place mentally. Which really, is kind of bad because the kids actually had one of the best, if not the best, weekends together. They didn’t have any friends over or didn’t play with any of the neighborhood kids. They basically were on lockdown together at home by choice and they played and played and played.  Very little arguing and lots of bonding and it was oh so good.  We had family pictures and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to see those. I even took them all out to eat and shoe shopping by myself Saturday night and it was actually fun.  I’m telling you, things were good around here externally this weekend.

But internally, things were brewing in my mind. I got a random phone call last Tuesday. It was Jac0b’s Guardian Ad Litem that I didn’t even know he had. She needed to visit.

The visit went fine, wonderful, even. It turns out his GAL is a wonderful Christian woman who really, really cares about Jac0b and fought like a mama bear for him. Once again, I saw God’s hand in Jac0b’s life. And yet, I also saw more glimpses of his life with his birth family. I’ve figured out that this is always a trigger for me. My mind begins changing the narrative of this adoption.

My mind begins playing this story on repeat: this poor boy has endured so much and now he has been taken from his family.His family probably misses him so much and has no idea where he is. I am sure they are beside themselves in worry. Who are we to have their son/nephew/grandson? No wonder Jac0b hurts so badly. I want to fix the family and Jac0b and make it all right for them and we’ll just step out of the way. This is so depressing! I cannot fix any of this and it is so, so sad! It will always be sad and there is nothing that can be done to change the awful things.

I begin soaking up everyone’s emotions and then instead of being grateful and in awe of what has happened, I’m deeply sad and depressed.

Kay Bruner calls this being spongey.

It’s another boundaries issues. It’s a big one because I actually don’t know what their emotions are. And even though I do have an inkling of what Jac0b’s emotions are, that narrative is no good.

And not only is the narrative no good, once I’m sad and depressed about one thing, I begin being sad and depressed about so many other things.  I had emails from teachers and texts from my kids with issues and no dinner on the table last night and all the sudden not only is this adoption sad and depressing, but I’m a terrible, absent mom and the whole world is falling apart.  It’s no good!

As Glennon at Momastery explains, when we get into these head spaces, we have to change our narrative.

I feel like a lot of us get stuck in all sorts of bad narratives. We could be single or sick or hating our job or scared for our kids or hating our marriage. We tell stories about ourselves to ourselves and these narratives get stuck on replay and then infect all of our thinking. We need new narratives. Thank you, Glennon, for teaching us that.

The narrative I should be telling myself is something like this: bad things happened. His family didn’t care for him like they should have and no one stepped up to take care of him. But God knew in advance and began setting things in place for him to be rescued years and years ago. God was not taken surprise by this. He called us to adoption and he took Jac0b out of that family and has set him in a new family. We are a gift to each other. We should live gratefully and joyfully, making the most of what has been given to each of us. Just as God rescued him, the story is not over and God will continue to redeem.

That narrative is so much better because it recognizes that yes, bad things happened, but God is involved and there is so much hope already for what has been done and so much more hope for the future.

So here’s what I learned this week.  I need to wring myself of others’ emotions. I am responsible for my emotions and that’s it. And I need to make sure my narratives focus on the positives of the present and the hope for tomorrow, all and only available through God’s love and plans.

So I’m back on track this time and being in awe and grateful and getting back to joyful. Thank you Glennon and Kay and Richelle and Mom and Heather for helping me get there.

What’s the narrative in your head right now that needs to change?

 

The Beginnings of Our Busy (And 3 Things I’m Into)

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The plaid! Father-son time! I can’t handle all the cuteness!

I wrote Monday’s post about ADHD and DORE last Friday and was feeling all the good feelings about where we were with the adoption transition.  Well, that couldn’t last too long, could it?

I’m not a fan of a super busy lifestyle.  In fact, did you know there’s a thing called Busy Lifestyle Syndrome? You start having memory lapses, feel overwhelmed and can’t handle stress. It’s not something to aspire to.

But we all have those weeks, right? Well, mine went sort of like this.

Friday was Halloween so I got all 3 kids ready and carted them around for a few hours (yes, I know, all of you other parents did this too.  Gold star, everyone!). I helped organize a coffee event for our church on Sunday so I organized a bunch of that on Saturday, did some laundry and got the kids to my niece’s birthday party Saturday night.

Sunday morning we attended two services, set up the church for the event, ate lunch, finished setting up for the event, attended and helped host the coffee event. I dumped all the decorations back at my mom’s and did a quick grocery store run while my sister and her husband (!) agreed to watch the kids a little longer.  I think I finally stopped about 8pm after a full day of running around. Did I mention that Scott worked 36 hours over the weekend while all this was happening?

Monday was Lexi’s birthday so I had to get cupcakes to her lunch and then host the family for dinner Monday night.

Tuesday I was gone at the office from 7am to 6pm (thank you Charlotte traffic for continually getting worse), grabbed some food at Moe’s, did an hour of algebra with Emma and then crashed.

I’m not bemoaning any of that. I love, love, love to do all of those things (OK, not laundry or traffic. And yes, even algebra.). I’m just saying all of that in 5 days was a lot.  All of that meant I was short on patience and hurrying through everything.

Monday evening I thought all of the progress we had made with the adoption transition must have went out the door.  By Monday night, Lexi was crying in her room asking why we ever adopted and Jac0b was talking about leaving as soon as he was 18.  Not the kind of soul-nourishing conversations I wanted to be having during a busy few days. (We’re fine. Really.)

I’m exhausted this week and it’s only Wednesday.

I know the past few posts have been super positive and it seems like things are going well, and they are.  But let’s be clear, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.  And this is not even adoption related, really. We all have busy seasons and November is always, always ours.

So, I suppose this is simply a confessional post, but I thought I’d share 3 (super unspiritual) things that I’m into right now that are helping to lighten the load.

The Mindy Project

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Scott and I have been blowing through this show on Hulu.  Admittedly, it’s crass at times, but it’s funny. Really funny. Mindy + Danny 4EVA

Has anyone read Mindy’s book? I’m wondering if it’s worth the time. As much as I enjoy the show, it seems like I would like it.

Taylor Swift’s 1989

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Taylor Swift’s new album is on repeat everywhere I go. I’m obsessed with “Blank”. What’s your favorite?

Relay App

I saw Jen Hatmaker post about this new app Relay that has animated gifs you can text your friends. I had Lexi download it and we’re having a blast on it together. Look me up as @amyjbennett if you’d like to have some nonsensical fun.

 

So, there. I’m keeping sane by silly things and thought I’d share.  Happy Hump Day, folks!

Learning Boundaries in Parenting

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Kids at the park being very silly!

 

I am reading a book that’s so transformative to me that I can’t even wait until I’m done to talk about what I’ve learned so far.  Last week I talked about my perfectionism and how at its roots, it was a way to avoid negative emotions.  I picked up the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud to start addressing my issues and it turns out that I do indeed have boundary issues, particularly in parenting.

In fact, Boundaries ought to be required reading for every parent leaving the hospital. Why don’t they do that by the way? Give you manuals for those littles ones. They pop out and they say HERE, HAVE FUN!  By the way, MR. DOCTOR SIR, A LOT OF THIS IS NOT FUN.

Ahem.

So Boundaries is all about learning when to say yes and when to say no and why it’s important, particularly when you’re raising kids. although it is applicable to anyone at any stage of life.

What I’m seeing now is most of my frustration with parenting to date is because I have not been respecting an emotional boundary with my kids. Boundaries define what is my responsibility and what is their responsibility. Their bad behavior should reap negative consequences—both emotional and practical—and paid by them, not me. I am only responsible for my own emotions and consequences of my actions.

To date, this is how I processed an infraction by one of my darlings.

Let’s just say little Suzy disobeys me. My immediate reaction is frustration/anger because once again they have disobeyed a rule we have talked about. In my head, I know they should suffer a consequence, but my emotional side takes over. If I give them this consequence, they are going to be SO MAD, I think. And I do not want them to feel so mad and sad. My poor little Suzy, I want her to be HAPPY. And so, I choose just to talk about it with Suzy. Suzy, you know we’ve talked about this before, don’t do that again. There, I have addressed the issue, I think. They understand that’s a rule they shouldn’t break. My parenting job is done.

Or so I thought.

And yet, I am still feeling angry because they didn’t own up to any consequences (because I didn’t make them) and they are happy because they haven’t and I’m even more frustrated they are not feeling remorseful for their behavior. Why would they?

What I am learning is I have violated God’s law of sowing and reaping. They have sown bad behavior but I have reaped their consequences. They are “irresponsible and happy and I am responsible and miserable”!

I thought a good conversation would be enough, but that is not what an irresponsible person needs. Dr. Cloud says it like this:

It doesn’t help just to confront the irresponsible person. A client will often say to me, “But I confront Jack. I have tried many times to let him know what I think about his behavior and that he needs to change.” In reality, my client is only nagging Jack. Jack will not feel the need to change because his behavior is not causing him any pain. Confronting an irresponsible person is not painful to him; only consequences are.

If Jack is wise, confrontation might change his behavior. But people caught in destructive patterns are usually not wise. They need to suffer consequences before they change their behavior. The Bible tell us it is worthless to confront foolish people: “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Prov 9:8)

And let’s face it, our children are not wise men. They still have a lot of learning to do to be responsible adults and God’s laws say paying for your consequences (reaping) is how you learn to avoid bad behavior (sowing).

So, I’m learning that I am doing them a favor by teaching them boundaries. It is not my responsibility to shoulder their emotional response to the consequence.

I’ts amazing how frustrated I have been at parenting when really, I was the one that needed to change.

The past few days I have started to put this into practice.  I have begun seeing the consequences as a loving response (we have a behavior chart which leads to no screen time the next day).  I am teaching them boundaries which they will use the rest of their lives.  They will learn that bad behavior means bad consequences.  I can see God’s law of sowing and reaping in effect and ironically it has brought such peace knowing that things are working just as they were meant to.