2014 Wrap-up

In case you need caught up, 2014 was epic. I couldn’t leave 2014 without a bird’s eye view of the entire year.

 

In January, we literally started the year off with a bang.  I totaled our van. It should have been the first sign that the year was going to find a path of its own.

Easy-CheesyPotato-Soup

I also posted this Easy Cheesy Potato Soup recipe. I am still getting messages that it’s a winner in readers’ homes.

In February, I discussed the challenge to live the Gospel most to the people under your own roof.

How to Stick to the Envelope System Without Cash

 

I also talked about how we stick to the envelope budgeting system without cash.

redeemed

 

In March, I broke down a Psalm describing 4 profiles of the redeemed of the Lord: the lost, the addicted, the rebellious and the worker.

Later that month, God used that post and the book Battlefield of the Mind to free me of my own addictions in Green Pastures.

In April, I shared 3 things I learned from a 5th grade talent show.

I took a bit of a blogging break in May, but posted one essay on how I came to terms with working out of the home.  It’s my yes in my mess.

lightstock_80363_xsmall_user_4412305

In June, I wrote one of the most popular posts of the year Three Ways to Dig Yourself Out of a Funk

We adopted in the summer so most of the rest of year were posts related to our adoption.

Most popular for July was the day we met Jac0b.

In August,  you got to meet Jac0b.

photo 1feather

 

And then the famous Three Feathers story.

football game

 

In September, I documented how I saw Love on the Move.

I also did a series on Eagle Feathers.

wedding

In October, I shared a 10 and 12 week adoption update and shared how I saw the number 7 showing up everywhere. My sister also got married!

jacobyearbook

In November, I shared about Jac0b’s yearbooks.  Read Part 1 and Part 2.

In December, I talked about hearing Jac0b referring to me as “my Mom” for the first time.

And of course, I shared all the details on our finalization day.

 

There were many, many more posts for the year. If you aren’t caught up, I’ve made page for the Our Adoption Story and The Feather Story.

2014 certainly was a year of both trials and blessings. So thankful God was so close this year and I hope for more of the same in 2015.  Happy New Year, friends!

Christmas Recap 2014

IMG_1111.JPG

I woke up the day after Christmas and said, “It’s over.” All the decorating, partying, traveling, shopping, eating, visiting is over for the year. And as much as I love the Christmas season, I’m always happy for it to go too.

Our first Christmas as a family of 5 really could not have gone better. We traveled to see my extended family in and around Maryland the weekend before Christmas. It was a very, very long ride that I was tense about. Three kids for 9 hours, two of which like to argue? Yeah, I was a little nervous. But they totally blew me away. Jac0b traveled really, really well and was always up for whatever we were doing or whomever’s house we were going to next. He amazes me how resilient he is. So many changes and new people and he just goes along with us. It doesn’t pass my attention that transition and new environments and people could be a huge issue for some. So thankful we don’t have that in the mix. The kids had their moments, you know, but our trip went really well.

IMG_0861.JPG

Back at home, we had a wonderful Christmas morning together. He went straight for the biggest presents and was truly ecstatic by a few. His reactions were so much fun. I especially think he loved his new soccer goal for the backyard. The girls, too. Emma’s favorite was her karaoke machine and Lexi loves her new tablet. Their faces and reactions are my favorite part of Christmas.

I wasn’t sure how to handle his birth family for the holiday but I decided to let him lead. If he had questions or brought them up, we’d talk about it or pray for them or whatever seemed right but it never came up.

In fact, the last few weeks since our finalization have truly seemed to settle everyone out. It helps that we’ve been together full-time since then. The stability has been good.

I’m very happy to welcome the new year this week. As much as 2014 has blessed us, it also has been very hard. I feel like right now is such a good time to make a clean cut and start 2015 strong and stable as a new family.

I’m enjoying another few days off from work before I really get into this swing of things again. I’ll be back here this week with some lessons I’m carrying over from the year, perhaps my favorite books and perhaps my goals for the year.

I hope your Christmas was fantastic. Would love to hear your favorite present or moment! My favorite is Lexi opening a horn for her bike and yelling, “I got a honker!!”

Merry Christmas 2014

A very Merry Christmas from the Bennetts. We are so thankful for our “Christmas gift” this year, but ultimately, thankful for our Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate his birth.  How blessed we are.

Christmas2014

A First Thanksgiving

10348544_10202328009076363_6812884951629880451_n

 

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.

FullSizeRender

 

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).

IMG_0680

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.

IMG_0685

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.

IMG_0686

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.

 

Parents, You’re Doing Better Than You Think

lightstock_143143_xsmall_user_4412305

 

One really nice side effect of adopting out of the foster care system is getting a new perspective on parenthood.

We parents do a great job of beating ourselves up. We could spend 16 hours a day making meals, carting kids around to lessons, dishing out discipline, reading books, playing family games, refereeing sibling fights, doing laundry, helping with homework, reminding them to brush their teeth, changing diapers, giving baths, and we still get to the end of the day and say Man, I did a really bad job at parenting today. Why can’t I get myself together?

I don’t know where these expectations of the perfect parent were created, but I know so many of us try to live up to them and live in a constant state of defeat.

In the process of adopting Jac0b, I’ve learned just how much the little things matter to raising independent, compassionate, productive adults.

You really are getting so much right and want to encourage you in those things today.

Showing up. The simple fact that you are showing up is a huge win. Seriously guys, I don’t care if you sit on the couch all day and do nothing, the simple fact that you show up is a huge win. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ever leave. It just means when you do leave, the kids understand where you’re going, you go where you say you’re going and you show back up when you say you will. Maybe you have to do it by phone because you’re out of town, but do they know you’re out of town?  Maybe you are divorced and don’t have them for the week, but are they cared for?  If yes, you’ve shown up for them. Huge lessons of trust by just showing up.

Feeding your kids. I don’t care if it’s roast beef and mashed potatoes or McDonald’s. The simple fact that your kids are getting food in their bellies 3 times a day and not having to figure it out on their own or go without is huge. They are learning trust in huge doses. And believe me when I say even though you are worrying about their health with fast food, they probably prefer it.

Taking them to school. I don’t care if you homeschool, pay for private school or send them to public school. The simple fact that you are actually getting them to a place to learn is a big deal.

Caring for their needs. For younger ones, this looks like changing their diapers or giving them baths. For older ones, this might look like applying a band-aid to a scrape or helping with homework. Having someone react to them when there’s a problem—HUGE.

Correcting bad behavior. This includes all the annoying things kids do. Commenting loudly in public about a stranger, hitting someone when they’re mad, calling someone a name, snatching things out people’s hands, not saying thank you, etc. All of these things are TEDIOUS to correct as a parent, but it’s huge. This helps them be adults that are capable of having friends and jobs.

Encouraging them. Whether it’s when they share, or hold a door, or clean up after themselves after dinner, or they just look cute for the day, it’s HUGE for them to have someone behind them that believes in them.

And as a bonus:

Family moments. This includes all the extra things you do through the year…walks around the neighbhorhood, trips to the library, afternoons at the playground, pumpkin patches, trick or treating, birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, fireworks at July 4th, beach trips, visits to the zoo, the roller rink, bowling. These do not have to be expensive, blogworthy, Pinterest pretty moments.  Just simple efforts. It may feel like it’s not important and superfluous but it’s not. You’re teaching your kids about the world around them and it’s huge.

I was talking with the principal of our school and they said one kid they were helping came to school knowing nothing about how the world around her worked.  She didn’t know what a police officer or fireman was. They had to show her videos in the morning before school teaching her about her world. All of these trips and conversations and pointing out the fire trucks? HUGE.

That’s it.

And here’s what I know if you’re reading this.  You’re doing so much more than that.

But hear me when I say these simple things of consistently showing up, getting them their basic needs and trying to make them into halfway likable people is A LOT.  It doesn’t feel like a lot because you’re doing it by default, but it is.  It really is enough.  The simple things are teaching them trust and love and integrity and compassion and boundaries and about the world around them.

Sadly, Jac0b came to us not getting a lot of what I just listed.   I honestly never realized how big of a deal just showing up was until 3 months ago. Seriously, when you get to the end of a hard day and you want to beat yourself up, pat yourself on your back if in some way you showed up for your kids.

The gymnastics lessons, the perfect grades, the trip to New York, the cooking lessons, the brand name outfits, the 3-point nightly sermons, the completely organized play room, the perfectly decorated holiday tablescape, etc, etc. those are great, but please, let’s not beat ourselves up about not doing them at the end of the day.  They are GRAVY.

You’re doing better than you think, parents.  You really are.