Life Unexpected

It is the stuff of nightmares.

A doctor with an apologetic face;

He’s offering a chair, taking a deep breath…

Brain tumour.

My heart clutches.

I look to my husband and I see his face cringe.

Our son snuggles closer between us when we cling and sob out sorrow.

I race home to collect a bag of things,

To hug my girls good-bye.

Their fear and innocence in contrast pushes me on.

I promise them and hold them tight.

Before I can breathe,

process,

hold this new reality in my hands…

We are being rushed toward the helicopter, my tiny son strapped to a stretcher and crying as we roll through the darkness.

I’m kissing my husband goodbye.

“I will be there as fast as I can.”

I want to scream,

To pull my baby in my arms and run far away from all this.

The men are large and strangely comforting in their neon jackets.

They are gentle and calm.

They strap us in and sit quietly in my stunned grief as we fly through the night sky.

My son settles into an exhausted sleep and I hold his hand and stare down at the lights below.

Steadfast love.

It comes to me and pulls together my anguished heart.

Over and over in the last 2 weeks I was drawn to the psalm, not sure why, and now the words bind up my wounds.

“Your steadfast love, O Lord; extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!”

“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

Steadfast.

Love.

I breathe and take refuge in the angels in neon across from me.

We are landing and they place him back in my arms.  I hold him close and wrap a blanket around his bare arms.  We’ve left without a jacket and the night air is cold.  I grip him to my heart and try to transfer myself to him.  I know he is afraid.

Steadfast love.

We follow strange corridors and crowd into an elevator.  The men in neon surround us and tower over us.  My son gazes wide eyed and scared.

We follow back outside to an ambulance and whisk away.

I breathe gratitude and feel tears well when they allow me to hold him instead of strap him to the stretcher.

We are sitting in a busy hallway on a stacking chair being admitted and still I hold him tight to my chest, the blanket securing him to me.

My eyes feel big and scared.  I feel small and unsure.

My heart flows gratitude when I see my big brother round the corner and come to us.

He stays with us even with his own son lying upstairs.

Steadfast love.

The hours blur as they insert IVs, put on lead lines and watch monitors.

My baby’s skin has always been so spotless and white.

I cringe as they pin him down and poke and press.

He is terrified.

My husband comes and we sit together in shock as our baby drifts to sleep on the cold white hospital bed.

Questions.

Answers?

My phone dies from the texting.

We spend the night in a crowded room trying to sleep in the upright hospital chairs.

We won’t leave him.

He falls into sleep and I am so thankful he can escape this nightmare as I try to get comfortable.

The next day there are tests.

More questions.

Information staggers my mind and makes me stare at my boy unbelieving.

So perfect.

So unblemished.

So innocent.

Brain surgery tomorrow.

9am.

They will cut his scalp open and drill a passage way through his brain.

I hold the words at arms length and turn my eyes so I won’t have to look too close, to let the terror seep in.

I focus on reassuring my toddler, learning new terms and piecing together brain anatomy.

I phone my girls and once again I put on my brave voice.  I am their string of hope and I won’t let them down.

My voice is strong and sure as I promise them and reach for words they can understand.

I give them just enough to ease their anxiety, but not too much.

We take our little boy, clad in hospital gown and pajama pants, to the play room.  For over an hour he plays and we watch him forget about the IV on his arm.  He babbles and laughs and points at the elevators moving up and down.

Steadfast love.

I wonder when he will play again.

That night I sleep on a couch near his room, comforted by knowing that I will be close by if he needs me.

Morning.

Surgery day.

Only now do I let myself Google it…preparing my heart for the fall.  The words I find give me footholds of reassurance and I claim them fiercely.

My husband carries him through the halls to the OR.

We look at books and try to hide our uncertain tears from his little face as we wait.

He likes the trucks and tractors in the book.

For a minute he goes very soft in my arms and snuggles up to my neck.  I squeeze him close and breathe him in.

Steadfast love.

When they take him and his bunny Flopsy away he cries and we force ourselves to turn and walk away.

My mother in law’s arms give me a second to collapse and I feel tears rush in.  She holds my pain for a minute before letting go and it feels good to share a bit.

It is 6 long hours.

I am nervous…but I also feel held.

I am humbled as I realize all the people praying in this moment.

I believe.

Steadfast love.

The surgeon is there.  I anxiously rise to the inevitable and scan his face for hope.

He is so pleased.

Gratitude overwhelms as he describes what we hardly dared hope for.

It is gone.  They’ve gotten every piece they could find.

Steadfast love.

We go in to see him and I could weep with relief.  His chubby cheeks relax in peaceful sleep.  Flopsy is still there with him and we tuck him up by his arm.

Steadfast love.

The uncertainties lurk but we hold onto the hope and embrace it.

Its been a few days now and I sit by my baby’s bedside in the ICU.

The adrenaline rush is collapsing and the truth feels cold and hard beneath my tumbling heart.  I am scared and uncertain in this new reality but still…

Steadfast love.

I reach for the hearts that I know will hold me, us, in all our pain.

He is seizing beneath my trembling hands and his eyes stare dull and lifeless.

They are rushing in, grabbing masks, calling code.

I am being pushed back from his bedside and I cling to my husband’s trembling chest.  More and more…they just keep coming, calling out orders and stats.

I am terrified and the sobs push out of my lips.

I stumble out into the hallway into the waiting arms of my sister in law, who came rushing when she heard the code.

She holds me and says “I’m sorry” as I fall apart.

I know she knows this feeling and I am so grateful for her presence in this moment.

He knew that I would need her tonight and her son is surprisingly, blessedly, fast asleep down one floor in his room.

Steadfast love.

We return to the ICU and I am so grateful.  The carefully monitored room feels familiar and safe after the last 24 hours.

Answers come and we nod in understanding as they explain.

Knowledge gives grip to confidence and I advocate for my son, feeling strong and sure in the normalcy of knowing what is best for him.

Steadfast love.

It’s painful to watch him grasp for strength and my heart staggers under the weight of discouragement.

She knows me well and despite my efforts her arms bring the tears flowing.  It feels better than I thought to let the fear out and fall apart.

Steadfast love.

He meets us on the street corner with the kindest and gentlest of words.

“Don’t worry,” he tells my husband, and we see he really means it.  He gives generously and my eyes fill once again with gratitude for this man who has continually blessed our family again and again and again.

I am humbled and so grateful.

Steadfast love.

The waited on words are offered casually and its anticlimactic as we cautiously grasp hope.

No cancer.

No further treatments needed.

“I see no reason he should not have a full recovery.”

Really?!

Steadfast love.

A weight falls off our shoulders and breath comes easier.

For the first time in days I see light.

I wake up to the video and I smile the biggest smile.  It’s my little boy grinning his crooked little smile and high fiving Daddy with his right hand!  The side that’s been weakened since surgery.

Steadfast love.

So much joy with one small milestone!

They keep coming and coming.

First kick,

first reach,

first grasp of my finger,

first step,

first bite.

So many reasons to be grateful.

Steadfast love.

I talk to them on the phone and they are bubbling over with happiness and news.

“I miss you, Mommy.”

“I miss you, too.”

And then she goes on with what Nana said, what Papa did, what happened at school…

I smile the biggest smile as I listen to her happy voice.

They are safe and happy, even though they are so far from me.

They have found their people and they know who they belong with right now.

How do we deserve to be loved so unconditionally and fully?

Steadfast love.

It’s our first weekend home!

We get a pass!

I am ecstatic and my heart actually skips a beat as we drive into our small town.

It’s so beautiful and green everywhere!

We’ve been gone a month and so much has changed.

Life everywhere.

I drink in the green trees, the breeze on my face as it blows off the bay, the sight of my children all playing together in the back yard.

Steadfast love.

Life has changed, and I miss the way it used to be.

But in it all, I am so grateful.

And I know…

In the journey there is beauty,

growth,

redemption,

and always…

Steadfast love.

-AF

 

Adoption vs. Birth

I went into adoption absolutely certain that I could and would love children born to another woman.

I was right.

I knew long before I met my girls that my love could run as deep, steady and strong for a child I chose through adoption as a child I gave birth to.

But there was also a lot I didn’t understand until I gave birth to my son.

Before we adopted I naively thought that love for my daughters would come instantly and feel deeply maternal.

I was wrong.

While I did fall instantly in love with my daughters, it was a very different kind of love than the love I felt when I gave birth to my son a  year and a half later.

It took day in, day out, month after month after long month of choosing to love my daughters before those feelings of natural, instinctive, maternal love came to me.

In theory I loved them fully and intimately, but realistically

we were strangers

and we needed to get to know each other.

I hadn’t spent nine months feeling the stirrings under my heart.  I hadn’t held them for those first breaths and watched each tiny movement.  I hadn’t witnessed the steady growth and development and learned what experiences formed in them their character and who they had become.

I have missed so much and I grieve that deeply.

When my son was born his innocence and purity took my breath away.  He was…and still is…so unscarred by this world.

My daughters never had that experience.  Even prenatally they struggled against circumstances beyond their control.

They fought for survival even before their first breaths.

I would give anything to give them the innocence my son got to experience, but I can’t and that is hard.

It is hard to look into my daughter’s eyes and see longing there as she says, “Mommy, I wish I grew in your tummy.”

Or to hold her shuddering little body as she cries tears of grief and loss for her birth mother…tears that she can’t even understand they are so complex and raw.

When my daughters came to me at 7 and 5 years old, they had personalities, character traits and a whole life that I knew very little about.

Sometimes that still gets in the way.

Sometimes I see fear, and I don’t know why it’s there.

Sometimes I see pain, and I don’t know what it’s about.

Sometimes there are vivid memories of people and places that I don’t know and I have no way of knowing if these memories are accurate and true or distorted by a child’s memory.

They’re looking to me for answers and I don’t know what to say.

Sometimes I see anger and resentment and I have no words to unravel the pain behind it all.

Sometimes I am the one battling the deep feelings of loss, of insecurity, of resentment and of exhaustion.

It is so tiring to constantly battle the layers upon layers of grief, fear, loss and trauma written on the hearts of children who have seen and heard and felt the unimaginable.

There is always always an unknown factor to consider.

Just because I chose this doesn’t mean it’s easy.

It’s not always fun.

Hurt makes people hurt.

Fear makes people push away.

Betrayal makes hearts break and the healing is slow and painful.

Sometimes I just want a normal family.

Yes, it’s true and I said that out loud.

Sometimes the guilt of that tears me apart.

But so many other times I see love, and I feel honoured to be their mother.

I see happiness and it overwhelms me with joy.

I see healing and it makes me fall to my knees in worship to the One who can bring redemption out of so much pain.

So many people see all the hurt and pain that often goes along with adoption and they decide they could never do it.

Too many risks.

And it’s true…after having experienced both adoption and natural birth, I will atest to the fact that giving birth is probably easier.

It’s the natural way to receive a child, the way our Creator first designed for families to be born.

It’s beautiful.

But what about when the original design falls apart?

What about when pain and destruction and sin enter in?

Ripping, tearing, breaking;

leaving wounds upon both the innocent and the guilty?

Then what?

Is there any hope of redemption?

Yes!

A thousand times yes!

I cannot begin to pour enough passion into these words.

To let you see,

to let you feel

the incredible grace

that our Father pours upon those who choose to engage the pain.

How he takes the ashes and creates beauty from them.

How he takes the broken and uses the scars to proclaim His glory.

How he bathes us in grace upon grace.

How he heals and transforms and gifts.

How we see the gospel through this thing we call adoption.

It is probably true that nothing quite prepares you to face the pain of this.

But it is absolutely true that nothing will prepare you for the rewards you will experience and the victories you will be a part of.

Nothing will prepare you for the small things that will bring you joy,

the grace you will receive

and maybe most of all the love that will grow strong in your heart for these children you’ve chosen as yours.

Yes, yours.

It will become their identity.

Your children.

It’s my favourite thing to say.

My daughters.

One of my favourite narratives in scripture is the account told in Hosea of God lavishly loving upon the people who had turned their backs on him.

Hosea 2:23 says,

“I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”

When I read these words, there is something that resounds within my heart.

I will say to those who were once not my own

“You are mine!”

I will choose, despite all odds, to

lavishly love

upon these people who were once strangers to me.

And in it all, the unthinkable will occur…

we will become one.

A family.

A home.

A testimony of grace and redemption.

So even though adoption can be hard and messy and complicated

it is so worth it and in it’s own way

it is so beautiful.

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

AF

Daddy’s Day

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Just when I thought I couldn’t love you any more than I already did…

You became a father.

Watching you love our children makes me

so proud

and so grateful.

I know it’s not a glamorous job, this fatherhood thing…

and I know you get tired.

Tired of little hands reaching up to you,

tired of little bodies…and bigger bodies

crawling all over you

begging to be tossed and turned;

snuggled and tickled and

loved.

Tired of my weary arms handing over babies

and diapers

and squirming toddlers

and dishes.

Tired of fixing the broken doors

and handles

and toys.

Tired of reading stories

and tucking in little girls

and rocking babies in the middle of the night.

Tired of holding us all together after a bad day,

of sorting through the squabbles

and tears

and dirty laundry.

You work so hard all day,

then come home to us and still..

still you love us

with your strong, weary arms.

You love us with your kisses and your smiles

and the words you say.

I say it over and over again:

how grateful I am for you,

how I couldn’t do this without you,

how I need you.

We need you.

You hold us all together with your strength,

your confidence,

your faithfulness.

You will never know what it means to us that you come home every night.

That the first thing you do is reach out to hold us.

You will never understand the great mountain you are in our eyes.

How we lean on your greatness;

so steady and sure.

You will never see the light and joy

that I see in our children’s eyes when they look at you.

Daddy.

How the belly laughs and joyous shrieks

and outstretched arms are

special for you.

You’ve captured their hearts.

You will never know how much we all adore you

and  how safe you make us feel.

 You are a really great Dad.

Thank you.

 

Ask for Help

Many families go into foster care with the idea that if they do not perform perfectly as foster parents they will not be allowed to foster.  I can easily see how this happens in a system where there are many rules and regulations that need to be followed.  Certainly there are certain rules that, if not followed, will jeopardize one’s role as a foster parent.  Those are clearly laid out, logical and always related to the safety of the child.

However, there are many foster families that worry, even after spending years involved in the system, that they will be removed from their role for any random misdemeanor.

A messy kitchen floor,

a child throwing tantrums in the office in front of ten social workers,

forgetting an appointment or visitation,

a visit to the emergency room after a child falls off a bike or does some other childlike thing,

and maybe most common of all…having to ask for, or obviously needing,

HELP.

I remember our first foster placement.

I was only 23 years old and I had never been a parent before.  I was reminded of this continually and cautiously all throughout our home study process.  It was not in a superior way, just gentle reminders that encouraged me to be open to advice from those around me who were more experienced than I.

Despite that, the first child placed in my arms and my amateur care was a five week old baby struggling with drug withdrawal symptoms who had spent all his little life so far in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

I didn’t know enough to be intimidated, but I did know I had something to prove.

I would have to earn the respect and trust of the doctors and nurses releasing him into my care from their expert hands, the social workers putting me on duty as “foster parent” for the first time, the birth parents of this tiny child and maybe most of all myself.

That placement only lasted a few short weeks, and I came out proud of the way I had handled it and grateful for the knowledge I had acquired.

However, looking back I know for certain even if I had been in way over my head…a phone call to our social worker would have been the last option on my list, and one that terrified me.

Despite the friendly support, gentle guidance and beginnings of a relationship we’d developed through the home study process, I was sure that if I showed any sign of weakness or incompetence I would be deemed unworthy.  Maybe even worse, in my own mind asking for help meant I was somehow not enough…and I desperately wanted to be enough.

Thankfully, God brought me just what I needed.

A child who broke me.

A child who needed more than I had to offer.

Asking for help was no longer optional…and when I finally did…the relief and support and encouragement I received made me realize how proud I had been.  Where I had ever gotten the idea that I alone could be enough I have no idea.  It takes much more than just one person to raise a child, especially a child who has been through the physical and emotional trauma most of these children have endured.  Though motherhood certainly requires us to take on aspects of many roles in life, we will find ourselves discouraged, disillusioned and burnt out if we try to be all things to these little people.

Through the next few years, I had many opportunities to practice asking for help.  It is getting easier, though I still have to fight against the craving to somehow be everything for my children.

In foster care and adoption, especially, I soon discovered I won trust and respect much more quickly when I was willing to learn and admit my own weaknesses or lack of expertise.

When I demonstrated a heart that was open to new ideas, new methods, outside resources when needed, others’ opinions and yes, even breaks at times…the relationships formed became solid and deep.

Now, our resource worker is a person I go to quickly when I’m feeling overwhelmed or discouraged and I know she will see my heart because she’s had many opportunities to learn it.  I know without a doubt in my mind that if I’m feeling tired or needing a break, if I just come and ask for help she will try her best to supply that need.  I also know that using these resources to help me prevents burn out, frustration and actions that I would end up regretting as a mother.

We are stronger when we admit we are not always enough.  There is much to learn in parenting…especially children who’ve experienced trauma and heartache to the measure these kids have.  But there is also much that can be accomplished when we choose to learn what we can, tap into resources and even change our lifestyle to accommodate special needs.

Ironically, I have found in the world of foster care and adoption admitting I alone am not enough makes me less afraid, not more, of new challenges.  It feels less frightening to take on children with challenges such as extreme behavioral difficulties, medical needs, permanent diagnoses, etc when we remember we will not have to do it all alone.

It takes a village to raise a child,

but as a parent I will need to choose to tap into the village.

So if you are new to foster care or adoption…my best advice to you is this.

You don’t need to be a superhero.  Admit you do not know everything and be willing to listen, learn and grow.

Even if you’ve parented for years, there is much you do not know about the children who are about to enter your care.  I can guarantee it.

Take the courses.  I have taken the same attachment course three times now and still I have so much to learn.  Many of these are available for FREE through your local agency.  Ask your social worker.

Read the books.  There are more and more child psychology books available on topics such as attachment, exposure to drugs and alcohol, poverty, domestic violence, anxiety, mental illnesses, etc.

Ask for help.  Friends, family, your social worker, community counselling services, your church, etc.  Explain what you need clearly and humbly.

Ask for advice and opinions of those who have been there.  If you don’t know anyone, find a group online.

Seek out professionals and research.  Family doctors, paediatricians, child psychologists, resources for speech and language, behavioral therapy, etc.

Don’t try to do it alone.

You will become a trusted, respected and humble foster/adoptive parent only to the degree that you are willing to ask for help.

I want to give a special warning to Christian families involved in foster care and adoption here.

While it is certainly true that the Bible is full of advice for parents, please do not reject the knowledge and wisdom you can gain from professionals and public resources and services.  Just because someone is not a believer does not mean they have no insight into your situation.  Emotional and physical abuse and neglect causes changes in the way a child’s brain functions and develops.  Alcohol and drug exposure will do the same.  The life your child has come from may be one you could not even begin to imagine.  Just as you would seek the advice and research of an expert on other topics, you will need it here.  You would not expect a teacher to use only the Bible as a textbook for Math, Language, the Sciences and Arts.  There is much knowledge to be gathered about the human mind.  The pieces you already know and the ones you learn will all come together to give you a greater insight than you can imagine and a greater ability to parent your child successfully and biblically.  Your child’s heart is at stake.  Do not be so arrogant as to believe you hold all the keys.  We have an opportunity to display God’s heart of humility and gentleness toward the professionals we interact with.  The church will be valued as a resource for these children only if we show a willingness to learn.

More than anything…remember that with God all things are possible.

Believe that, and seek His guidance in all that you do.

Pray for your children and your self.

Pray for wisdom to seek the right resources and help for your child.

Pray also that you will have wisdom and discretion when seeking personal friends and confidantes.  A lot of damage can result from sharing too much information with the wrong people.

Seek out a faith family that will encourage and build up your family physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Find at least  one friend that you can tell ANYTHING.

The best, the worst

the triumphs, the failures.

You do not have to be alone in this.

Ask for help.

AF

 

 

 

 

Cry It Out?

 

IMG_9407-1I remember the first time I cared for an infant.

As a “new mom” to our first foster child, a baby, I was reporting in detail every little quirk in his sleeping habits to our social worker.  What sticks out in my mind is her kind eyes looking at me with a hint of amusement as she said gently, “You know you may eventually just need to let him cry it out!”

Fast forward four years and I’m dragging myself out of bed to go comfort my five month old for the fourth time in one night.

Not hungry.

No fever or signs of pain.

No diaper change needed.

Just wanting to be snuggled and preferably offered a breast for extra comfort!

As much as I absolutely adore
my baby, and have learned sometimes it’s not worth the battle, sleep is something I know I need and this particular night I knew I needed to put on my big girl pants and get him back to sleep without my help.  This was becoming a pattern.

So…

After attempts to rock him, cuddle him and sing him back to sleep I tucked him back in his crib, turned on the singing seahorse and stood beside his crib watching him cry in the warm glow of the night light.  I thought of leaving, but couldn’t bear to leave the room and instead propped my head on the rail inches from him and tried to calm him with my whispered words of comfort.

His poor little eyes filled with big tears and he cried his little heart out.  He’d never experienced anything like this before!  Being such a content little guy, at the slightest whimper he is used to being scooped up.  I thought to myself that this was probably one of the first big moments of stress in his life!

He cried and cried, big shuddering sobs.

Just when I’d think he was almost calm again, he’d start all over again.

At these moments it is really unfortunate to be an adoptive parent who has spent the last three years focusing on attachment, brain development and healing kids from trauma.  As I stroked his cheeks and listened to his mournful cries my heart broke and I felt my chest tighten with anxiety.

All the stories I’d read of babies left screaming for hours on end and the resulting brain trauma flew through my mind.  I was sure he was going to think I was abandoning him and all I could picture was the diagram of the brain in attachment classes with the prefontal cortex all lit up in bright red!

What kind of mother just stands there and lets her child cry?!

At the same time the logical side of me knew this was an age old, tried-and-true method that most mothers use at some point with most babies.  I also knew that tomorrow would not be forgiving of me after a night of fitful, interrupted sleep.  Thirty minutes, an hour, forty-five minutes, or two hours at a time is not a way to feel rested and energetic the next morning!  I would still have to get up and take care of my baby.  I would still need to home school my daughter.  I would still need to get to the grocery store with my two children and do the shopping.  I would still need to get to the appointments and make dinner for my family.  I would still need to do the laundry so my girls had clean clothes for the weekend.  Life would still be there, and I would be a much better mother with a little more sleep.

Sigh.

This pattern needed to stop.

I realize there are all kinds of ideas surrounding babies and sleep.

Sleep schedules.

Sleep training.

Sleep cycles.

But every baby is different, and every mother is different.

At the end of the day you have to find whatever works for you.

After almost 45 minutes of on and off, broken-hearted crying my baby gripped the finger I offered and drifted off to sleep, still sniffling as his tears dried on his pink cheeks.

The funny thing is, as I felt his body relax and go off to blissful dreamland,

instead of heading back to my bed,

I stayed.

I stayed and stroked his soft head.

I whispered to him all my dreams for him,

My prayers for him,

And my apologies for being only mortal when I wish to be so much more.

My arms ached to hold him,

now still and quiet in sleep.

I desperately wanted to cuddle him close and let him feel my skin against his.

I wanted him to know just how very much he is adored.

But of course I couldn’t.

I told my husband later that the worst part was not watching him cry and have his eyes beg mine pleadingly, though that was torturous.

No.

The worst part was that eventually he was okay.

Without me.

Eventually he gave up.

And that broke me.

I don’t know if I’ll do it again.

I probably should, and probably will.

It really does work most times from what I hear.

But I hate it.

I’m designed to be his everything, and that is what I thrive on.

Interrupted nights,

frustrated minutes pacing the floor,

those are really just par for the course.

I’m a mother, after all.

 

AF

 

Switch it Up!

I am in love with Pinterest.

When it first entered the scene, I was somewhat curious but a little annoyed at the whole “pinning”, “sharing”, etc stuff going on.  Most of what I found there seemed to plunge me into a pit of envy and discontentment.  On Pinterest, everyone’s homes, children, birthday parties, dinners, photo shoots, clothes and entire lives seemed perfect!  I really didn’t find myself benefiting from most of what I found.  Not to mention all that DIY stuff.  That may work for some people, but for me?  Well, when I DIY it really looks like I did it myself!!  Enough said.

But in the last three months I have become a home school mom.

And now?

Well…

I am in love with Pinterest!

There are so many incredible ideas on Pinterest to help me teach my little A.  Right now I have no curriculum, only a Wal-Mart activity book, Pinterest and my Mommy instincts to teach my child…and it is great!  I understand that in some situations a curriculum is a huge blessing, but for our situation it would only add extra pressure and unrealistic expectations.  Why spend hundreds of dollars on a curriculum when you can use Pinterest!?  This way we can pick and choose our content and expand where needed with whatever grade level is required.

Anyway, I wanted to share some of the really great ideas we’ve used around here to make our learning fun.  I specifically picked out things that many of you moms can use for your children coming home from school every night with homework, as well, just to keep it relevant.  🙂

Word Work – We are combining spelling and reading by using a list of ten sight words every two weeks as our spelling list.  To practise these words and their spellings we use: finger paint, rainbow letters, scrabble tiles, white board or chalk board, say them aloud and clap for the auditory effect, type them on the computer, make flashcards, or make up little jingles and rhymes to help memorize spelling patterns.  For added fun, make videos of these to play back to use for practising as well!

Math facts -We haven’t gotten hugely creative with this yet, but there are tons of apps you can use on a tablet or smart phone to help your kids drill.  We play “War” with playing cards but require the child to figure out the sum, difference, product, etc of the two numbers flipped up.  Speed drills are easy to find on Pinterest and always fun to do.

Writing practise – Journal!  Let them pick their topic!  Don’t dictate what they are to write about and you might be surprised what they all write and find them looking forward to it!  Also, don’t fix their spelling mistakes in their journal and ‘pleasure writing’ activities unless they ask.  Just appreciate the quality they produce!  There’s lots of time to fix spelling and grammar later when you’re working on more dictated writing prompts.  At first glance, appreciate the content!  Other ways to practise writing are to make cards, write out grocery lists, label pictures and artwork, etc.  I bought a manuscript printing practise book that Little A does every day.  Even though she has almost all the letter formations accurate it’s good practise and keeps it fresh.  It also gives us an opportunity to practise writing in the lines, figuring out letter positioning and to practise neatness and accuracy.  Take every opportunity to write and make sure it’s not always difficult!

Grocery Shopping – There are so many ways to have fun at the store with your littles..and big kids, too!  Again, Pinterest has lots of fun activities and printables.  You can explore weights, check off lists, do a scavenger hunt for items or letters, practise money management, observe jobs and so much more!  Again, this may make your shopping trip take a bit longer, but you’re much more likely to have involved, occupied, well behaved children than if you’re just dragging them through the store as fast as possible!

Other things we’ve done include playing board games, card games and made up games of our own.  We’ve played store to practise counting money, and used fun YouTube videos to link to our learning for a fun spin.  For example Alexa loves Pete the Cat so we got Pete to help us with subtraction one week.  The video/book “Pete the Cat’s Groovy Buttons” is about subtraction so we watched that together and then made our own Pete the Cat word problems to practise subtraction.  She loved it and it added a fun element to a pretty standard activity.  There are all kinds of educational TV shows you can access as well to iad your child’s learning and spin lessons off of!  The Magic School Bus has been around for ages but is full of great ideas and learning as well as Sid the Science Kid.

There are so many ways you can spice up your child’s learning.  I am a firm believer that a child really willlove to learn if you give them the opportunity to learn in a way that’s fun and interesting to them!  Admittedly this takes work and effort, and you can’t do it all.  There are aspects I know I should be finding more creative ways to teach and I just don’t have the time, resources or energy to do it.  That’s ok.  Pick a few things that you can fit into your time and do those!  You and your child will both have more fun and I guarantee you it will be worth it to see the light in your child’s eyes!

AF

 

 

 

 

Anger & Grace

It was a classic moment.

I could feel my heart rate increase as I stared down at the defiant little eyes staring up at me; daring, taunting and luring me into the ring.  I felt my cheeks flush hot and my shoulders stiffen with anger.

A tiny voice in the back of my mind squeaked a warning, but my emotions screamed at me to just react!

I was the adult, after all!

How dare she talk to me this way?

Look at me this way?

Challenge me with a mere tilt of her head?

Out came the words, with the lash of sarcasm to make them powerful and biting.  I watched with satisfaction that quickly faded to shame as her spirit broke before me, in the worst of ways.  The angry, defiant eyes quickly covered in tears and her face crumpled at the tone in my voice.

I had done it.

I had cut to the bone.

Intentionally, I had hurt her.

Far surpassing my authority as a parent I had stooped to the level of a child giving slap for slap in a schoolyard tussle.

As she bent to my anger and my bidding, I felt only guilt and shame.  I had done it again.  In the very moment where she needed me to be the parent, in control of my emotions despite her behavior, I had fallen quickly and securely into the trap.  While she tested and resisted, scanning the boundary line for strength and safety, I had lunged in for the kill.

I knew I needed to apologize, but I had no idea where to even start and all I wanted to do was wallow in my anger, humiliation and frustration.

I have struggled with anger for as long as I can remember.

I have a temper that flares quickly and burns hot.  I’ve had to learn the hard way time and time again that giving it even a tiny dose of oxygen explodes into wildfires I regret deeply.

I need Jesus to deal with this ‘thorn in my flesh’ every day of my life.  Just when I think maybe I’ve kicked it once and for all, it comes out of nowhere and knocks me off my feet, leaving me bruised, humbled and broken before my God.

I need grace.

Grace for my own sinful heart and grace for my children’s sinful hearts.

I have read every verse I can find in the Bible about anger, for obvious reasons!  There is so much in there about anger, and how destructive and dangerous it can be.

“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity for the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

In the few years I’ve been parenting and caring for little people, I’ve found a few good strategies to help curb that anger when it rears its ugly head.  Today I am writing this post mostly to remind myself of what I know to be true!  I need this today.

1) Take a time out…for Mom!  Go lock yourself in your bedroom for a few minutes, go use the bathroom, do the laundry…anything that can get you a few quiet moments to recalibrate.

2) Be honest with your child about your feelings, but not in a reactive way.  “Mommy is feeling really frustrated right now and I just need a minute with Jesus to figure out what I need to do right now.”

3) Force your body to physically relax.  Loosen those shoulder muscles, stretch your neck and massage your cheeks.  Close your eyes, breathe and count to 10.  If you’ve chosen the bathroom or the bedroom as your escape room, force yourself to smile into the mirror before you head back down to face the music.  It really works!

4) Carve out time in your days for quiet time, prayer and simple things you enjoy.  This will help prevent the anger!  I know this is not easy for busy Mamas, and don’t kid yourself into thinking that through every season you’re going to find 30 minutes a day of God time or me time!  You might only get 15 minutes to talk to God in the shower, a few glances at a Bible open on your desk throughout the day or a verse taped to your mirror.  You probably won’t get a novel read but you might get in a walk to the park or a minute sitting in the sunshine while the kids bike outside.  When things are really crazy, take a look at your entertainment diet.  Make sure you’re spending your down time listening to worship music, inspirational podcasts, etc.  Take a few seconds to read that blog that pops up on facebook about an issue that you’re struggling with currently in your spiritual life.  Pop onto Youtube and find a women’s devotional for the day.  Be honest in your next conversation with your girlfriend when she asks how you’re doing.

5) Take a nap!  Again, I know this isn’t easy, but if it’s at all possible in your day, a quick nap or rest in the afternoon can prevent all kinds of explosions through the supper hour when everyone is low on energy, carbs and patience!

6) Look at your failures as opportunities from God.  Then embrace His forgiveness and forgive yourself too!  You very well may deal with this your whole life long, but each time you can reach out and grasp the power that God longs to place in your hands, you are gaining ground!  Don’t give up or let yourself wallow in defeat and humiliation.  Buck up and own it!

7) Say sorry.  Just do it.  No excuses!  Those sticky, small arms around your neck are worth it.  Your apology speaks a thousand words of wisdom and offers tangible grace to your littles.

Every now and then I experience it.

Victory!

I stop and take a moment to curb the anger before it takes over.  I whisper a prayer, get down on my knees and suddenly see the hurt lurking behind her angry eyes.  I offer the hug instead of the biting retort.  I grasp the power, and oh is it sweet!  It is there!  With His help, I can have the victory, but I can’t do it alone.

So keep trying!

Keep surrendering your spirit to His will and some sweet day He will give you the Victory!

AF