Hey! I have two kids

It hit me tonight that I have two children. It's a little late for the revelation, I realize. But I guess I've been so overwhelmed with scheduling doctors appointments and therapy sessions and helping K and J adjust to school and a new family that I haven't really taken much time to think about it all. I don't really know what it was about tonight that sparked a sudden epiphany. Maybe it was because Nate was gone at a show choir competition, so I parented solo (quite the handful with two five year olds!). Or maybe because tonight might have been the first night that the kids did not fight at all...it really was quite amazing. They talked about school in the car on the way to violin, they laughed through dinner, they wrestled and giggled underneath the kitchen table, and K helped J cut his hair tonight while I stepped out of the room for literally 30 seconds. I've always wanted two kids and for so long, this dream felt out of reach. All of the struggles with infertility and our failed adoption have been worth it though I never thought they would.


Seeking wisdom

"The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty" (Proverbs 27:12). 

I'm reading a book right now called The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands because my curriculum specialist at work send me a message one day stating she heard about the book and that it's one she wants to read and thought I'd want to as well (you'll see the irony in this later). She's a pretty stellar person, so I took her word for it and just ordered the book. Plus...I have been feeling overwhelmed for the last year--but especially so the last three months; I figured a little outside perspective with making smart choices wouldn't hurt. The book is written with a Christian perspective and is grounded in scripture, which I appreciate. The writing is a bit cheesy at times, but the woman's (Lysa Terkeurst) insight is practical, wise, and backed up with truth. It's left me thinking and praying a lot about making smart choices.

In May when I signed my teaching contract and agreed to teach a grad class through UNO and continue my stint as a co-director for the Nebraska Writing Project and signed Jon up for a weekly violin lesson for the entire year, I did not know we'd be welcoming another child to our home. Had I known that, I probably would have made different choices.

Terkeurst writes, "A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul. An underwhelmed soul is one who knows there is more God made her to do. She longs to do that thing she wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about" (21). I rarely wake up in the middle of the night; I sleep like a rock. However, throughout my day I daydream about what it would be like to have more time to be a mom--to spend as much time on my children and family as I do on my job and on other peoples' kids. I enjoy being a teacher and find fulfillment in it, but in the past year and three months, I've just felt torn between my job as a teacher and my role as a wife and mother. Terkeurst challenges her readers to think about and plan for how we can pursue these dreams of ours that we push off because of our busy schedules.

Later in the book she brings in the verse from above, Proverbs 27:12. She quotes Andy Stanley on his description of prudent men and women; he explains that prudent people "[...] 'understand that today and tomorrow are connected. [...] They ask what I refer to as the best question ever: 'In light of my past experience, and my future hopes and dreams, what's the wise thing to do?'" (74).

This book and my quiet time with God is making me think a lot about making a wise decision for my job. A wise decision for right now and a wise one for the future. I'm stretched to the max right now, and I'm not sure what I can give up. I'm tired of feeling guilty for working and guilty for not working. I'm tired of feeling like I should stay in teaching and remain a co-director and take advantage of every career opportunity offered me because of other peoples' expectations of me. I will be scaling back on my commitments with the Nebraska Writing Project, but I'm not sure that will be enough. It's not a huge time commitment or stressor for me, but it's the only thing I can scale back on in this moment. I've got a teaching contract until May and this grad class lasts until December 2nd. While the grad class does take me away from my family on Tuesday nights, I enjoy my time there. The biggest stressor in my life right now is my job as a teacher. It's the commitment that is the most frustrating, the most time consuming, the one I can control least, the one that gets most of my attention. Even though I'm taking 4 weeks of maternity leave, I'm still bombarded with emails and expectations of things to do while I'm supposed to be taking care of my family.

At the end of the chapter I just finished, Terkeurst advises, "What's a decision you are in the midst of making? Chase it down. If you do this, where will it most likely lead? And then what? And then? Keep going until you walk it all the way out" (74). For the past month the decision I've felt in my gut that's begging to be made is whether or not to keep teaching. Should I keep teaching throughout this year? Should I attempt to break my contract because of the recent change in my family? Should I stick it out and not go back next year? I don't want to sabotage my career, but more than that desire, I don't want to be pulled anymore from my family. I don't want them to deal with crazy, stressed me--I don't want them to get what's leftover of me at the end of a day. I've been praying about this, filtering through peoples' advice, and seeking counsel. I want to be prudent--I want to consider today and tomorrow to make a wise decision. If you're of the praying persuasion, please send up a few requests for wisdom on my behalf. And if you have prayer requests for yourself, send them my way.


Getting Schooled in Haircare

Shopping for ethnic hair care products is a lot like traveling to another country and navigating a menu in a different language. When we first met K, her hair was neatly done with two braids snug against her head traveling to two beautiful "puffs" (think afro pig-tails). The next time she had at least 20 barrettes clanging at the ends of five sections of braids and it looked beautiful. We called Jon's former foster mom (Michele) and her sister to teach us a thing or two during K's first overnight. The two women came over with bags of products and supplies explaining each one to us, showing us how to use it on their own hair while our 7 kids (yes...7) tore around the house like wild animals. They left most of the products with us as a gift. The first time I tried two simple pig-tail puffs in K's hair, I bawled as the hair frizzed and fro'd out and pony tails snapped my fingers. After the third try and two trips to Wal-Mart for products we thought would help, I finally got the rubber bands to stay with minimal flyaways. It looked nothing like her tight piggies she came with, but I threw a headband on her head to make them stay, and it looked fine enough to be out in public. A few visits ago we took the kids swimming at a hotel. We should have just left her braids in, but we thought we needed to wash the hair right away after swimming to prevent it from drying out, so we unsnapped 20some barrettes and popped 15 rubberbands to loosen the braids in hopes they'd be easy to take out after swimming. FAIL. When we got home at 8:30 PM (their bedtime), I tried taking out each wet braid---an hour later, the braids were out and K was falling asleep in the bathtub. I washed her hair haphazardly because she was so tired, and then sent her to bed with a giant, uncombed, wet fro. BAD IDEA. The next morning her hair was a tangled mess. Again, I spent an hour struggling with pig tails that lasted no longer than an hour before I had to redo them. She cried as I combed her hair, and I cried afterwards feeling like a total, incompetent nincompoop.

In the last 48 hours I've scoured the blog Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care, watched YouTube videos, and read an entire book on how to care for and style African-American hair. I feel more prepared than last time, but still anxious about my own inabilities to make K's hair look great (and not like an uneducated White girl is doing it!). Hair is so important in her culture, and I just want to get it right so she can feel confident (she's already picking up on the differences in our skin colors--more on that later). Based on tips I've received, it's good to have a styling routine. So Saturdays will be our wash and style day...today is Saturday...gulp. As soon as I'm done writing, I'll start the long process of taking out K's cornrows to wash her hair (she's been scratching a lot) and start with a fresh style. Wish me luck.


Our first night with K

15 months ago we were a family of two, and then Jon came along. Today we became a family of four...

After work, we picked Jon up from school and then drove to pick up K. We spent about a half hour saying good-byes to her foster family, and then ran back home to meet our foster care specialist to fill out some final paperwork while the kids played. Since K was here last, we've stocked her room with toys and books given to us from friends; it was great to hear squealing as she sifted through My Little Ponies and books. We wanted to make the night special, but it was already 6:00 by the time we were finally on our own with no case workers. So, we opted to let her pick a restaurant for dinner. Because Pizza Machine was too far of a drive, her second option was fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. KFC it was. Yup, KFC. Praying seems to be a new thing for her since meeting us; usually at dinner time, one of us prays for the food. Tonight K begged us all to pray. We went around the table thanking God, remembering our blessings, and praying for various things. She loved dinner...so did Jon. After a quick stop at Target to pick up a few more things for K, we finally came home to wind down. We talked as she got ready for bed, and she expressed her anxiety for going to a new school and a fear of mean teachers. I tried to repair one of her beautiful beaded braids (it's merely a white girl's temporary fix!). We prayed as a family before each kid went to his and her own bed. K and I read the Bible together; as I finished, she said, "Can we pray again? I just love praying." How could I resist? So we prayed again before she drifted off to sleep. It was a long day but a good day. I'm not sure she fully understands what's going on yet; she knows this is her home, but I'm not sure if she fully grasps this. She asked me tonight if I was going to be her mom, and I told her I was. She didn't respond. It will take time for her to really understand all of this.  I keep praying that her transition to our home would be a smooth one, that she would feel loved and safe and cared for, that she would know the love of God and take peace and comfort in it.