December is the month of publishing

I made it a goal of mine this month to send out pieces for publication on blogs. I sent one to Scary Mommy (a long shot publication) and another to Her View from Home (one with more local roots). The editors at Scary Mommy sent back a prompt and kind reply that while they liked my piece, they didn't have room for it at the time (it was a holiday piece). The sting of rejection didn't hurt so bad because, honestly, I anticipated it. My piece was still a bit sloppy and it was long, and it was Scary Mommy--a blog with over a million followers on Facebook.

A few days later I heard back from the editor of Her View from Home with a note saying they'd run the piece I sent. My essay about parenting was published on December 12th, and I have 30 days to rack up the views (the more views I receive, the greater the chances that I can have more work published....and the more I'll be paid). If you're interested, click here to read it. I'll have another piece posted on January 3rd, so if you like what you read in the first post, watch the interwebs for a link to my next one. And be sure to check out other posts on Her View from Home; there are some captivating pieces published there.


Distraction of Being Understood

The other day I had to carry my seven-year-old son into school mid-tantrum; it became clear to me that he was engaging in a power struggle--he didn't want to go to school; he wanted to stay home and play with toys. I had to make a choice in that moment: I could allow him to continue tantruming safely in the car away from the eyes of others or I could take him into school mid-tantrum because it was time to go to school. I've tried keeping him in the car until he is calm, and while it allows us some privacy, it allows him the freedom to continue tantruming for however long he wants. So I pulled him from the car--kicking and crying--and in all of my nasty, pre-run, pre-shower glory, I carried him into school, sat him down in the front office, and waited for him to be calm while I bore the stares from strangers wondering what the heck I was doing. Needless to say, I've been a hot mess of vulnerability lately. Later that day I texted a good friend and fellow foster-adoptive momma and explained that I felt stuck on an island as a parent--especially as a parent of children with special needs that are not physically obvious. I told her that I just wanted someone to understand my parenting situation, my choices, and my vulnerability. She replied with an empathetic text that ended with, "Unfortunately we don't serve a God who wants us to be understood but to obey."

Her text reminded me of a devotion by Oswald Chambers I read a few weeks titled, "The Distraction of Contempt." The focus of the devotion was Mark 4:19, and in the discussion, Chambers quotes St. Augustine, "'O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.'" Chambers goes on to explain that we should abandon our constant need to get others to understand us; while Jesus taught others about the truth of Himself and spoke out against wrong religion, he simply didn't correct misunderstandings of his words.

I did some quiet study and reflecting this morning on all of this, and if I'm being honest with myself, my friend's words and the devotion are in direct conflict with where my heart is right now. I have a serious desire to be understood by others--especially in my parenting choices, and I have a feeling that I'm not the only one. We were created to feel and to connect and to live in community with others, and a necessary component of meaningful relationships is that each person connects with the other and tries to understand how the other is feeling. So perhaps our need to be understood comes from the fact that we were meant to engage with others on a meaningful level. The question of the hour, though, is: When do we move from simply engaging in relationships with others to a “lust of always vindicating ourselves”? The more I think about this quandary, the more I'm realizing that a line is crossed when our motive for needing others to understand us is selfish in nature.

Like my friend’s reminder, God wants us to obey Him even when we are misunderstood in this obedience. Oswald Chambers writes, "Our state of mind is powerful in its effects. It can be the enemy that penetrates right into our soul and distracts our mind from God" (My Utmost for His Highest). When I focus on being understood by others, I am often focusing more on myself which distracts me from a deeper fellowship with my creator. God laid foster to adopt on our hearts nearly four years ago, and we acted out of obedience to him (although we were hesitant and scared and still grieving the thought of never having biological children). In obedience, I will be a parent, which requires me to advocate for my children and try to set them up for success. I’m learning, though, that being a parent doesn’t require me to constantly be understood. Like St. Augustine, my prayer this week is, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself,” so I can remove my eyes from me and direct them upward.

A visual aid to attachment disorders

Image source
 I am part of a support group for adoptive parents through Right Turn, and part of this is a secret Facebook group for parents in Nebraska to be able to ask questions. A fellow "trauma momma" responded to one of my questions and gave me this chart as a resource. While my kids don't fit into every category, a lot of these descriptors fit our children. It's a helpful visual aid to understanding Reactive Attachment Disorder.


Understanding Reactive Attachment Disorder

Our kids (both adopted from foster care) have Reactive Attachment Disorder. Kids with RAD engage in intense power struggles with their caregivers because they have learned their previous caregivers didn't do a good job of meeting their needs.

For our kids, here's what these power struggles look like: If we give our kids a two-step instruction, they do the second step before they do the first step. If we ask them to put on their coat before school, they'll put on their backpack instead. I laid out a lightweight coat for my daughter last week during our 50-60 degree weather streak; she asked for a warmer one. I explained why we were wearing our spring coats, and she insisted she wear her winter coat throughout the week. If we issue a consequence to our kids, they will yell that we are mean and scream and kick for sometimes up to an hour. When I ask J to walk, he runs. When I ask K to run, she walks. Our daughter has to know everything that is going on: what we are doing each day, when we are leaving, when we are coming home, what we are eating, etc. Our son "spies" on my husband and me when we're having conversations--he simply cannot go play while the two of us talk. Sometimes our daughter even refuses to complete basic hygiene tasks (hand-washing, wiping after pottying, showering, etc). In therapy we've been working on trust--so, the therapist blindfolds the kids and has one of us lead the child around the office. Immediately, their arms and hands begin to feel for something familiar. They stick out a foot and feel around before taking a step. A nervous giggle sometimes turns into out of control laughing. Our kids fight for control in nearly every situation.

Conversely, they are totally sweet and compliant around strangers or those who they don't have a deep relationship with because they've learned how to "work a crowd." In the past they've used others to get what they need: food, attention, hugs, diaper changes, etc. K demonstrates this by giving lots of hugs and wanting to be right next to others (teachers, day care staff, relatives) at all times. She'll play with their hair, touch their jewelry, compliment them on their clothes/house/hair/etc. J exercises perfect compliance in new situations with new people. At every school he's ever attended, he's gone three months with no behavioral incidents. After three months when he sees he's not going anywhere, the deal is off. This year the principal and teachers were so concerned and emailed us multiple times in October when J let his guard down; I explained that this is the real J--that now he feels safe at school and knows he's not going anywhere....I'm sure they thought I was a nut-bag.

This morning on the way to school J argued with me about something; I replied by saying, "Thank you for letting me know that we still need to practice being compliant" (a phrase our therapist has instructed us to use). J retorted with a top-of-his-lungs scream, throwing his backpack at me, yelling I was mean, and kicking the back of seat until we arrived at school. While at a stop light, I reached behind me and took his shoes off so he didn't damage my car. He was still out of control when the bell rang, so I scooped him out of the car--shoeless---and carried him into school. The principal, the secretary, and a handful of kids stared, mouths open. I sat him down in the front foyer and we practiced following instructions until he was ready to go to school....late for the fifth time this year thanks to these morning power struggles.

Admittedly: I am EXHAUSTED. The mental effort and physical restraint it takes to parent my children is leaving me feeling like an overused simile. My body aches on a regular basis. My nerves are shot. Taking my kids both into public places alone, is my nightmare because it inevitably elicits judgmental stares from strangers when I use the integrative parenting techniques suggested by our therapist and RAD literature. And still, I love them. I love them so much that I'll quit my full-time job (that I love) to be more free to take them to counseling and Occupational Therapy and psychiatry appointments or just to run to school to eat lunch with them. I love them so much that I'll fight my instinct to spank them when they're defiant because physical consequences don't work for RAD kids. I love them so much that I'll drag my ass and theirs to a store in the evening so we can practice being appropriate while I shop. I love them so much that I'll bypass reading my new memoir to read a book on parenting kids with attachment trauma. I love them so much that I'll try to ignore the judgmental stares and comments from people who have no clue what it's like to parent my children. I will love them through their tantrums--I'll pop in my ear plugs and rub their back while they scream and kick out all their mad. Parenting kids with attachment trauma is tough work...so find a foster or a foster-adoptive parent and give them a hug, buy them a beer, withhold advice (especially if you're not or have ever been a foster parent), and tell them they're doing a good job because, damn, they need this encouragement.


Favorite Things #2

A podcaster I listen to--Tsh Oxenreider--ends each of her shows with a segment called "What's Making Me Happy." I like learning about new things that are making others happy, and it makes me happy to think about that which  makes me happy. It's just a whole lot of happiness (if you hadn't already picked up on that!). So, here's a list of the mostly minute things that are making me happy this month. I'd love to read about what's bringing you joy--either the material or abstract--so leave a comment below if you feel inclined.

Food: Kale chips. I'm trying to do a better job of eating fresh foods that are in season. Winter is tough because it means less fruit and more root vegetables (nasty). However....I learned from the food coops that I participate in that kale is in season. The stuff tastes disgusting plain, but drizzle on some olive oil and salt and bake it for 12 minutes, and kale transforms into these airy, crispy little boogers that fool my mouth into thinking they're chips. I tend to eat a large baking sheet of these myself...it's the cheater's way to pack in the recommended veggie servings.

Drink: Fair trade coffee. I'm trying hard to purchase only coffee that is fair trade (fair trade often means fair prices paid to growers), which can be expensive. Luckily I've got my local TJ Maxx to help  me out. I've recently discovered their excellent selection of affordable fair trade coffees (think $5-7 a bag!).

Podcast: Serial. Last year a co-worker hooked me on this podcast produced by Sara Koenig (also a creator of This American Life). The premise of Serial is that a group of journalists uncover details from one particular story each week...throughout the season the story develops in a way that hook the listeners. Last season was about Adnan Syed; it explored whether he was guilty or innocent of murdering his ex-girlfriend who he had been accused of murdering in the 1990s. It was dramatic, honest, and thrilling and kept me company on several long, cold runs. This season is about a US Soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, a topic of controversial discussion in current events this year.

Book: Integrative Parenting: Strategies for Raising Children Affected by Attachment Trauma. The book is written by some folks from the Attachment and Trauma Center of Nebraska (yay for local writers and researchers!). While I'd rather be reading something else, the book has helped Nate and me through some difficult moments with our children these last few months. The  book explains brain development in a way that even my right-brained personality can understand. Additionally, it gives suggestions for creating connections with difficult children, solutions to every challenging behavior we've experienced with our kids (including swearing, defiance, and the ever-loving poop issues!), and how to set boundaries and issue consequences while being attuned to the kids' needs. I'm not quite finished, but I am so ready to read the section on self-care and becoming a happier parent. The book is a great read for any foster/adoptive parent, and segments of the book are wonderful for families and friends of foster/adoptive parents to read; I feel like it would explain why foster/adoptive parents can sometimes be closed off, overwhelmed, chronically tired, or seem to make odd parenting choices.

Music: My Bubba. I found this Scandinavian folk duo on NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts and was mesmerized by their harmonies, softness, and lyricism. Listening to them is like the relaxing sensation of a deep breathe. And since it's the Christmas season, I'll throw this music recommendation out there: Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens--classic Christmas songs with an indie feel and fantastic instrumentation.

Scent: Bergamot oil. Each winter Nate grows a massive beard...it's red and thick and makes him look like a lumberjack. I love it. But I don't love the feeling of sandpaper on my face when he leans in for a kiss or the flakes of dry skin that tend to grace his black jacket. So....we made beard oil! We used a combination of essential oils (using a recipe we found on Pinterest), and the recipe called for bergamot...sweet Lord...bergamot is the best smell. It's citrus-y and sweet with a light floral hint. I dab it on the back of my neck and my wrists each morning and it makes me feel all happy and bright like a My Little Pony doll...it makes getting my children ready for school less painful.


3 Reasons why the elf will not be on our shelf this year...or ever

Recently our family was over at another family's house having dinner; since it is the Christmas season, I took in the beautiful sights of all their festive decorations and felt the cliche warm and fuzzy feeling...until I spotted the damn Elf on the Shelf. I waited anxiously, praying my kids would see the elf and think of it as another Christmas decoration--a cousin to the creepy nutcracker statues. My hopes were dashed within thirty seconds when their adorable three-year-old proudly shouted "Look at Bernard!" pointing to the elf on the piano.

"Who's Bernard?" my son asked staring at the doll, perplexed at the tree-year-old's excitement.

Our friend's oldest daughter, a wise seven-year-old, explained the concept: Bernard watched to make sure they were good until Christmas. He changed spots each day, and if you touch him, you lose three presents. My kids' confusion turned to sudden admiration for the damn doll.

"Mom, why don't we have a Bernard?" my daughter asked.

"That's a good question. Where's the playroom?" I replied--diverting my kids' attention. But here's the reasons I wanted to give them:

1. Your dad and I are simply too lazy. When you guys go to bed at night, we savor the freedom. We do really important things like eat cereal, watch TV, and go to sleep. The last thing we want to do is figure out a cute way to pose a doll. I guess that makes us selfish, too...

2. If we were in charge of Elf on the Shelf, you'd be frightened at our cynical sense of humor. We'd take our notes from the #elfontheshelffails and ruin Christmas for you. We're really looking out for your best interest by not participating in the elf hype. You're welcome.

3. Do you really want another thing to monitor your behavior?! C'mon...don't be stupid...

At first, I felt guilty that we hadn't shared this piece of cultural tradition with our kids. But the guilt wore off when a fellow mom shared with me how stressful it was to think of something new for her elf to do each day. There's enough stress that accompanies the holiday season without the damn elf: picking out and wrapping presents, hiding the wrapping paper that only Santa uses, standing in massive lines of crying children so my kids can sit on a random stranger's Santa's lap for five minutes, Christmas programs, baking cookies with my kids (seriously, the stress of this almost pushes me over the proverbial ledge), extra trips in the car to see family, etc. etc. I just don't feel guilty anymore for not participating in the Elf on the Shelf excitement.

I admire the parents who post pictures on Facebook of their elf having another fun shenanigan. I think it takes creativity and perseverance to do this every day for the entire month of December, but it's just not for us. So, we'll continue finding little ways to make the holidays fun for our kids: like attending our community's free showing of A Christmas Carol, decorating my daughter's hair with red and green beads, enjoying Christmas-themed movies by the light of our Christmas tree, or fishing out millions of egg-shells from our cookie dough as I bake with them.


Kids with histories of trauma and the holidays

My husband and I have two six-year-olds adopted from foster care. Our son has lived with us since he was four, and our daughter moved in when she was five. We're still a relatively new family, and prior to our kids' arrival in our home, their lives were filled with turmoil and trauma from neglect, exposure, and abuse. This trauma manifests itself in interesting ways, especially during the holiday season. For kids with histories of trauma, consider these four reasons why the holidays are not so merry:
1. The holidays are a mix of sugar, relatives spoiling our kids, Christmas programs, late nights, and trips out of town. Basically, the holidays blow--especially for kids with trauma who often have “chaos brains” (brains that are accustomed to a constant state of fight or flight). Chaos brains are best regulated by having predictable, consistent routines (routine may as well be an antonym to the phrase holiday season). The minute there is a break in this the everyday structure, our kids’ chaos brains tend to spin out of control and breed more chaos. For our kids this looks like excessive silliness, constant running wherever they are (home, school, stores, etc.), and an increase in impulsive behavior from November through January which all lead to an increase in mamma's drinking.
2. They worry their behavior will prevent them from receiving presents from Santa. Our six-year-olds know the whole Santa story; they’ve heard that Santa only brings presents to “good” boys and girls...we’ve tried using it as leverage on many occasions. Desperate to stop the madness, my husband downloaded the app, A Call from Santa. During a fit of crazy behavior from our daughter, he used the app to have Santa “call” and tell her she was being a naughty girl and reminded her there were only 27 days until Christmas. There was a rare two minutes of silence when she gave the phone back to my husband, mortified. The silence was really the calm before the storm, and before long wailing and fat elephant tears ensued. Immediately we became the worst parents in North America; I wanted to apologize to her and spill the beans about Santa being a fraud.

Many kids fear that their bad behavior will earn them a lump of coal on Christmas morning, but for our kids, this fear is rooted deep in trauma because they believe their bad behavior has earned them way more than just a lump of coal in their stocking.  They believe their poor choices are what got them removed from their birth parents. So the Santa business or the Elf on the Shelf crap--all of that reinforces our kids’ belief that they are not good enough to receive presents or love or affection.
3. The holidays can cause them to self-sabotage. It’s common for kids with traumatic backgrounds to want to control situations. The holiday season is rife with enjoyable opportunities for families: trips to visit Santa, picking out and wrapping presents, baking cookies placing store bought cookies on fancy paper plates, eating massive amounts of Life-Savers from those $.97 Life-Saver books. Unfortunately, kids with traumatic pasts often don’t trust that they’ll get to participate in these festivities because they think their behavior will cause the fun to be stripped from them or because they have experiences of previously unfulfilled promises. So, on the brink of fun activities, they will often self-sabotage so they can choose to miss out rather than risk having an experience taken away from them again.

Our kids are known for self-destructing. After recovering from a turkey, stuffing, and family hangover, we decided to put up our Christmas tree. Our kids love to read, so we busted out the stack of Christmas books, set up a cozy spot for them on the couch, and asked them to read together while we put the fake branches on our fake Christmas tree trunk. “Once we get the tree built, then you can help us fluff it out. Please stay on the couch and read until then, okay?” They both nodded and got busy reading. Approximately 47 seconds later, our son jumped off the couch and proceeded to run through the piles of fake pine needles that our fake tree had shed during its removal from the box. Our living room was a disaster zone of Christmas decorations and fake pine needles, so to avoid more chaos, we sent him to his room where he happily played with his cars and trucks as if that’s what he wanted in the first place. Twenty minutes into our attempt to decorate the tree with our family, both kids were in their rooms for what appeared to be intentional defiance, and my husband and I swore as we proceeded with the terrible job of fluffing out our fake tree by ourselves.
4. The holidays remind them of all they've lost. Our kids didn't have much in the way of material possessions to begin with, so you'd think that receiving gifts on Christmas morning would be exciting for them. While it is exciting, it is also overwhelming.

The first Christmas with our son, we showered him with gifts, which resulted in an immediate tantrum that lasted most of the morning. We couldn't figure out the cause for the melt-down; did he want a blue sled instead of a red sled? Did we not explain clearly enough the purpose of a sled and how much fun it is? We had given him nearly everything from his Christmas list. Pissed that our Christmas morning didn’t meet the expectations I had of our first Christmas as a family, I stormed off leaving my husband to deal with our new son’s confusing behavior. It wasn't until after the chaos of the holiday season passed when he said something out of the blue about never receiving Christmas gifts from his birth parents that we were able to understand that perhaps his Christmas morning tantrum came from a place of loss--a reminder of the gifts promised but never received from his birth parents, a reminder that it wasn't natural for him to be spending Christmas morning, a time normally reserved for immediate family, away from his immediate family. Remembering my response to his behavior on Christmas morning, my cheeks burned red in humiliation, and I reached out to hug my boy.

As a foster-adoptive mamma, I’ve learned to accept that the holidays will most likely be difficult for our family. We probably won’t be able to engage in every fun activity our community has to offer, and we may not be able to attend every holiday party we’re invited to. Instead, we’ll spend extra time at home together. It takes an extra dose of patience, so if you know a foster parent or foster-adoptive parent, send them extra empathy and love booze this holiday season to help get them through it.


My daughter: Clothes and growing up

Yesterday afternoon I went shopping at the mall (gag) for a pair of jeans. I loathe shopping for myself, but I love shopping for my kids. I had K with me (my 6, going on 13 daughter), and she ohh-ed and awed over every dress and furry vest. She'd hold up clothes up below her little face, strike a pose, and ask, "How do I look?!" The girl has a passion for fashion. We picked up a new pair of Wal-Mart boots for her (because I'm cheap) that were of the fashion trend. Little brown ones that stop at the ankle...the kind that lace up and zip and fold over. I'll admit, they were pretty cute. She was smitten and gasped when I decided that $20 was a respectable price to pay for boots and placed them in the cart. "I'VE ALWAYS WANTED BOOTS LIKE THIS!" she yelled (she says this about everything she ever receives....I'VE ALWAYS WANTED THESE OFF-BRAND GUMMY BEARS! I'VE ALWAYS WANTED THIS USED BOOK WITH THE FIRST FIVE PAGES MISSING! I'VE ALWAYS WANTED THIS RECEIPT FROM COSTCO! etc. etc.).

At our house, each of our kids has a closet organizer that contains six storage boxes. On Sundays we fill the boxes with outfits the kids can choose from for the week. Today K grabbed the outfit with her new boots---a pair of dark skinny jeans, a plain white shirt, and a gray and navy striped cardigan. With her mo-hawk made of tiny Afro puffs, she looked like she stepped from the pages of an H&M catalog.

As I restyled her puffs this morning, I noticed how gorgeous my little girl is. Her eyes are the perfect almond shape and they are a deep brown...almost black. Her lashes are thick and long and accentuate her beautiful eyes. And her smile...man, her smile will melt you. As I brushed back her hair and combed out her puffs, I suddenly imagined her at 16....and my heart jumped into my throat. My girl loves clothes and already has to be pried away from the mirror; just yesterday I made her "redo" her walk from the living room to her bedroom, because she started swinging her hips and shaking her booty like Shakira. I want to teach her to be a strong, confident, independent woman...but I also want to teach her to be modest with her body not for the benefit or sake of others, but because she values her body as a gift from God. But If yesterday's Shakira-shake and today's fashion show are any indication of what is to come, then man...we have our work cut out for us...


750 Words a Day

For the past month, I've been in a writing challenge with my friend, Jenny. Our goal was to write 750 words a day for every day in November. We used the website 750words.com to do our writing because it keeps track of how many days you've written, the themes of your writing, and gives a little congratulatory message when you've reached your 750 words.

There were days that I absolutely did not want to write, but I managed to meet my 750 word goal all but one day of the month (we had a family funeral that day, so the entire day was spent with family, and I was simply too mentally exhausted to write). The accountability part of having a friend who was also doing this with me, helped motivate me. When we finished our piece for the day, we sent each other a text message with a series of icons symbolizing that we accomplished awesomeness managed to write 750 words. This month I wrote lists, essays, blog posts, and poetry. Some of the writing was total crap, but I do have some salvageable pieces. My favorite was a creative non-fiction piece about building a tree house in a tree at our grandma's house out of cardboard scraps with my cousin. Coming in close second to my favorite piece was an essay reflecting on the path my life has taken since I've graduated from high school twelve years ago.

The disciplined act of writing 750 words each day gave me time to reflect on things that have been suppressed for years. It became my therapy during a difficult month. And now, 750 words feels like a piece of cake. If you're looking for a way to discipline yourself in a daily writing habit, consider grabbing a friend and creating an account on 750words.com.


Creating a family purpose statement

I've mentioned Tsh Oxenreider in a few blog posts now, but one of the things that drew me to her the most was her concept of the family purpose statement. She touches on it just briefly in her recent book, Notes from a Blue Bike, but the detailed version of the why and the how are here on her blog. Basically, a family purpose statement is like a company or school's mission statement. It's a statement that identifies a family's core values and serves as a compass during times of decision making.

I think I was drawn to it because Nate and I are in a new phase of life where we simply need to be more deliberate about the choices we make. When we first got married nearly ten years ago, our priorities were basically to survive. Pay our bills on time, finish my degree (for me), make it through a first grown-up job (Nate) and figure out how to be married. Now we're at a place where survival is no longer our priority. We have two kids, half of us are in our thirties (I will not rob myself of my last seven months in my twenties!), and we are starting to set down roots for the first time, so I was searching for something that would help ease my transition into this new stage of life. Nate and I decided to give this family purpose statement a shot.

Our Process
We started talking through the questions on Tsh's blog in September, and we just finished our purpose statement last night....but have no fear, it would not take a "normal" couple three months to complete the process. We worked on it for thirty-sixty minutes each night for a week and then had to take time away from it while we directed our efforts towards our home remodel. While it was time consuming, the questions sparked great discussion. For a few months now I feel like Nate and I are on two totally different islands when it comes to our priorities simply because the move and the transition to a new town/new jobs has been so time consuming that we haven't had lots of opportunities to touch base, but after talking through these questions, I was happy to learn that we are not on different islands. Our answers often lined up, which was affirming to me. These discussion questions also forced us to think about the future in a practical way. I have always been a bit of a dreamer; while this characteristic helps me to see opportunities that others may not, my dreams and aspirations are often unrealistic. On the contrast, Nate is pragmatic in every sense of the word, so it was beneficial to talk through both of our hopes for our family's future and decide which hopes and dreams we'd pursue. Talking through these questions just made sure we are on the same page.

Final Results
We used Tsh's template for generating a family purpose statement and modified it a bit. Our family purpose statement turned out to be:

We, the Helzer family, believe that our purpose as a family is to serve and honor God by being good stewards of the gifts we have. We will accomplish this by: 
--valuing healthy relationships with one another as our core value
--making our home a place of respite
--prioritizing simplicity above excess
--interacting in a spirit of graciousness, patience, and love

How We Will Use It
I'd like to get this purpose statement fancied up and printed so we can hang it in our house as a visual reminder. We'll discuss this purpose statement with the kids revisiting it as they mature to help deepen their understanding of it. This statement will be a compass for us as we make decisions--big or small. Our decisions will need to align with the purpose statement we've written together. I'm sure over time we may need to revisit it and revise, but what I like about what we've written is that this is who we are at our core. Even while we were in survival mode in our first few years of marriage, I still feel like we had the same values that are implied in our purpose statement now.

I'd recommend this process for anyone--married, single, with kids, without kids.Too often our culture gets swept up in trends and leaves people searching for something to cling to after the trend has passed. Creating a purpose statement allows a person to intentionally identify what it is he/she stands for.


Tiger shirt and self-confidence

Because we no longer live in a town with a Target, I've found a replacement store to whittle the hours and paychecks away: The Children's Place. They have great prices and fun clothes for both of my kids. Yesterday I picked up this shirt for J-man:

Three reasons drove me to purchase it: A) It was on sale for a whopping $0.99, B) He recently has become interested in tigers and jaguars, and C) I have a weakness for weird clothes (I have three shirts with various cats on them and one with a unicorn).

I showed my husband the shirt when I got home. "No. He's not wearing that," he said surprisingly firm and serious. "He will get made fun of. I wore stuff like that and got made fun of," he explained--still not breaking the serious tone. My husband was adamant that the shirt only be worn at home. "He already struggles to make friends; lets not make it more difficult for him."

I have a difficult time accepting that kids make fun of each other in the first grade for their clothes. I'm keenly aware that this happens in middle school and high school, but I guess my elementary school years did not reflect that kids made fun of one another for their choice (or their parents' choice) in clothing. I don't want my kids to be made fun of, but I want them to wear what they want to wear--to express themselves how they want to express themselves and not however their peers (or their peers' parents) feel is socially acceptable. And I want them to understand the consequences of these choices--that they may be unfairly judged, made fun of, isolated. I never want them to feel the pain that goes along with these consequences, but I just want them to be deliberate in their choices and confident in themselves. Maybe this all sounds a bit rosy. I was a free-spirited child and it was often reflected in my clothing choices, for which I was ridiculed by both peers and adults, but I learned a lot from this, and it has made me into a more confident adult. I want my kids to be confident adults.

Nate and I are still at an impasse about the tiger shirt. Damn tiger shirt--I should've left it on the rack. Because I respect my husband, I'll leave the tiger shirt in the closet until we can reach a decision that we can both live with...or maybe I'll just keep the tiger shirt for myself.


The dreaded "I don't want to go to school" tantrum

This morning Jon refused to follow instructions, got a consequence, and then spiraled out of control tantruming. It was time to go to school, so I gave him his coat and book bag and asked him to put them on. "I don't want to go!" he shouted and stomped. Jon has always loved school---until this year. He loves his teachers, but as he gets older, his behavior just isolates him more from his peers and makes it difficult for him to have good relationships.

"You don't want to go to school," I repeated, trying to attune to his needs.

"No! I don't want to go! I want to stay home" he cried.

"I understand that you don't want to go to school. But the law says you have to go to school unless you are sick or there is an emergency; you are not sick and there is no emergency, so you have to go to school," I explained calmly while holding his hand.

He continued to cry and scream, but he put his coat and back pack on and we walked to the car. He calmed down by the time we pulled up to the school. I sent Kylynn in, and kept Jon back to talk.

"I don't want to go," he said with his voice wavering.

"Come here," I said and gestured for him to come close to the front seat for a hug. "Why don't you want to go to school?"

"I want to just stay at home and play. I never get to play."

"You think you never get to play. But what were you doing last night with your cars?" I asked.


"Yup. You were playing with your cars. You do get time to play, but it may seem like you don't get enough time. You sometimes don't get time to play because of the tantrums you throw--those steal your play time," I tried to explain softly and not condescendingly.

And then he just laid his head down on the center console as I rubbed his back.

"I don't want to go," he repeated again.

"I know buddy, but you have books to give Ms. W today, and she'll be happy about that, right?" I reminded him of his old books we were donating to his teacher.

"Yes, but I want to give her more books," he replied, clearly still sad and clearly still unsatisfied with just about anything I could say.

"Well, maybe this weekend we can look through your books and see if there's more you can give her. But now it's time to go to school..." I wished him a good day, hugged him tight, and sent him out--he walked slowly, dragging his feet on his way into door 8--the door to the first grade rooms.

It is too early for him to be this upset about school...I'm worried for what this might lead to for the future. His school and his teachers are great, but I wonder if we should try non-traditional schooling (homeschooling and private schools are our only options here). I wonder if I'm doing enough to support him in school....there are lots of things I wonder and worry about with J (and K), and if I allow it, these worries will put me in a constant state of anxiety.

Prior to the tantrum this morning I planned on having the kids do their chores and then have Jon do his homework tonight. But now I think I'll ditch this plan until tomorrow. I think tonight will be a pizza and movie night with plenty of time for free-play. Maybe I'm being soft....or maybe I'm being smart. I haven't the slightest clue, which is the feeling I most often have with parenting.....


Talking to my kid about terrorism

Jon and I were in his room reading on Friday evening, when a news reporter on the Christian radio station we were listening to, interrupted the song and prefaced with, "If you have small children listening to the radio, you might want to turn this off...". I quickly jumped to shut it off and then pulled up the news app on my phone to search for anything major that may have happened. My stomach was tight and my breath uneven as I waited for the app to open. I knew the news report had to be about something big and devastating, and I immediately remembered 9/11.

I was a sophomore in high school and in Mrs. Smejkal's biology class. The notification sound in her email dinged, and she paused to check it quickly and then frantically turned on the television that was attached to the wall's corner behind her. She turned it on just in time for us to see a plane crashing into a building. And then, my teacher--a stern soccer coach--remained silent as tears fell down her cheeks. I had no context of this situation, no frame of reference. But Mrs. Smejkal, somber and voice shaky, filled us in as best as she could. She explained what the World Trade Center was and tried to inform us of the significance of this--of the devastation this would cause to our country. For the remainder of the day, we either watched the news or we forged on ahead with the day's lesson, but no other teacher even attempted to discuss the day's events with us.

Eleven years later I was in my own classroom when news broke of the Sandy Hook School Shooting. My kids were on their laptops researching for a poetry project, when a kid shouted out that there was a shooting at an elementary school. I attempted to regroup them, but they were genuinely concerned. So we stopped class and we all took the time to research and discuss what we were learning. We did this again in the spring of 2013 when we learned of the Boston Marathon bombings during our Comp II class. We researched together and then we talked to try and make sense of the atrocities. Now in our digital age of fast media, kids are learning of these devastating news stories while they are in school. I appreciate Mrs. Smejkal's talk with us on 9/11---she treated us like the young adults we were and allowed us to ask questions and talk.

Jon is not one of my high school students; he is six. But he heard the news reporter's preface, and he heard me gasp as I read about the terrorist attacks on Paris. "What, mom? What happened? What is it? Are you okay?" his questions rolled off his tongue too easily. He was genuinely concerned. I took pause to think about how to explain this to him in an appropriate way. We looked through his atlas to find Paris, France so he could have a frame of reference and some reassurance of how far away these atrocities are. Then I tried to explain the concept of terrorists (a person or group of people who kills those who don't agree with what they believe). We talked about why these are bad people. We talked about how some terrorists killed lots of people in Paris. I let him ask questions, and I tried my best to assure him that he was safe. We prayed for the people in France, and then he moved on to a new activity.

A few days later we were looking at his atlas again (the kid loves maps!) and he seemed worried.

"Buddy, what's wrong? Are you sad or worried?" I asked.

"Worried," he stated succinctly. I asked what he was worried about, and he replied, "I'm worried that what happened in France will happen to us. What if someone brings a bomb here?"

I knew these fears and questions would come, but still I wasn't prepared for them. It took me a while to respond. I never want to give my kids false hope or lie to them (they've had too much of that already), but he's too young for me to be totally honest.

"Bud, it's okay to be worried. I understand being worried about this. But our president and our military and our police are doing all they can to keep us safe. You are safe, okay?"

And as I said it, I wondered if what I said is true. I thought about Sandy Hook--my kids are in first grade--the same grade of many of the victims. I don't know that my kids are always safe, and it scares the shit out of me. I did my best to keep my voice level and calm, but later that night I cried because my kid is too young to be scared of bombs, to know about terrorists, to be afraid to die---and there's nothing I can do to protect him or ensure his safety 100% of the time. But...I can talk to them. I can be as honest as possible with them, and I can explain difficult concepts and allow them to ask questions. While I hope my kids have teachers as smart and compassionate as Mrs. Smejkal who will allow kids to talk about the tough stuff, as much as I can, I want my husband and I to be able to inform our kids of these devastating world events no matter how difficult it may be for us.


Birthday dilemma

"Jon really struggles with friendships; he really doesn't have any," his teacher told us during a meeting last week. My heart sank and tears immediately welled in my eyes. This is not a new revelation for us; J has always struggled with developing relationships with kids his own age, but no mother wants to be told that her kid doesn't have friends...no matter how many times she has heard it or seen it herself.

J turns seven in a month, and now that we are sort of settled, I'd like to have a birthday party that allows him to invite the boys from his class so we can start making these connections with other parents, but it's "regular" kid things like birthday parties that remind me that my child is not a regular child. J is a sweet boy who loves his family and has a curiosity for the world, but making friends is not his forte. While he is one month away from seven, emotionally, he is more like one month away from five. He doesn't have a wide window of tolerance for most social situations thanks to the trauma he endured early in life evident in his behaviors at school (screaming when he's angry, immaturely putting his hands on friends to get their attention, chewing on random classroom items, and just an overall inability to stay self-regulated).

So now we have a dilemma. Do we march on with a plan to invite the boys in his class to a party and risk none of them showing up? Or do we decide to just have an intimate party with family and close family friends skipping the invites to classmates? It breaks my heart to even have to think about this, and as much as I desire a "normal," "regular" family situation--I'm trying to embrace reality...


What surrounds Jeremiah 29:11

Do a quick Google Image search for the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11. You'll find hundreds of word art images, pictures of this verse on walls, wallpapers of this verse, kitschy knick-knacks with the verse, cards with this verse plastered on the front, tatoos of this verse...it's one of the most thrown around verses of our time. Thomas Turner, a writer for Relevant magazine argues that this verse is one of the "most misunderstood verses in the Bible." Writers Tsh Oxenreider and Jerusalem Greer (also a minister) make a case that, for many, this verse has become a "platitude...often seen on bathroom plaques." I did some reading this morning before and after Jeremiah 29:11 because it's been a few years, and what I discovered there does not match with our culture's current obsession with Jeremiah 29:11. We are missing the purpose of the verse.

The verse is part of a letter that Jeremiah (the prophet) sent to the Israelites who were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon. The letter seems to be a sort of guide for the exiles for how to live and thrive in their new land. The letter starts in Jeremiah 29:4; I encourage you to read it for yourself, but I'll break the text down to bullet points of advice that Jeremiah (speaking on behalf of God) gave these exiles:
1. Build houses and live in them (vs. 5)
2. Plant gardens and eat their produce (vs. 5)
3. Have kids and let your kids have kids (vs. 6)
4. Grow in the community where you are planted--help it be better and you will be better; pray for your new community (vs. 7)
5. Don't be fooled by false prophets (vs. 8-9)

First, I have to say I'm sad these four verses are overlooked. Jeremiah 29:11 is often advice given to people in times of transition--moving, graduation, taking a new job, getting married, etc. The instruction embedded in verses 5-9 is a beautifully simple and practical set of guidelines often missed because they don't pack the feel-good punch of verse 11.

Now let's take a gander at verse 10 alongside verse 11 (remember, this is still a letter from Jeremiah (inspired by God) to the exiles): "'For thus says the Lord: When SEVENTY YEARS are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.'" What we miss with the context of this letter when we focus only on verse 11 is that God says this plan to give the exiles a future and a hope will take SEVENTY YEARS. SEVENTY. YEARS. God always brings redemption, but it's on His timetable--and this timetable often feels too long for us--so we lob off verse 10 because it doesn't make us feel good, and we focus only on verse 11---the feel-good stuff. Then we become disillusioned when the good stuff God promised us doesn't come to us after we've been praying for a week or even a month or (gasp) a year. I think this is especially true for new believers. Jeremiah 29:11, when taken out of context,  can cause people to have unrealistic and unbiblical expectations of God, which may jeopardize their faith.

The letter doesn't stop at verse 11. It marches on for 12 more verses. I won't carry on and on, but I do want to point out that the three verses after 29:11 seem to be the most encouraging of this whole letter. They say, "'Then [remember...this is after the 70 years the Israelites will be in exile] you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.'" God promises a return back home....but we must remember, he also promised it will take SEVENTY YEARS. This will require a season of waiting that will allow the Israelites to pursue God...a beautiful thought when you dwell on it long enough.

In short, let's quit taking this verse (and others like it) out of context. The Bible is certainly a spring of excellent advice, but we must be careful not to pick and choose.


T for Tantrums

Remember The Muppets and Sesame Street?!
Image source
Chocolate covered cherries, two Jolly Ranchers, a mini Milky Way, and two packs of fruit snacks. I'm not grading  papers anymore, so tonight's candy binge is brought to us by the letter T--T for tantrums. The theme for today (and everyday for the past month and a half) has been tantrums. If we had our own TV show, it would be called, 19 Tantrums and Counting (Everyday). The intro would be blips of my kids screaming for various reasons and me shoving candy in my mouth while Nate walked around the house with his bluetooth headphones in playing some wizard game on his phone.

In all seriousness, the tantrums have been off the chain ever since about the end of September--around Nate's 33rd birthday....I mean, I know it sucks that he's old and all....anyway. I've tried to identify triggers, and for K, it seems like her trigger was when we gave her a picture of her birthmom that we found online. "Try to find something from her past," they said. "It will help them process their trauma," they said. While I get the concept behind this, it seems like shit blew up after we gave K this picture. She started tantruming more, having bathroom issues, and just overall refusing to attach with us by choosing to be overly silly or overly emotional until we had to send her to her room to take some space (I'm not sure if this was deliberate or her brain's way of trying to make sense of this hot mess). Maybe she wasn't ready to have that picture. Maybe the kids' tantrums and overall emotional instability began around the same time we started the home improvement projects which has caused our home to be in a bit of disarray physically and mentally. Nate's worked hard on the cabinets and floors, and I've pulled my weight by taking on more with the kids--maybe this has caused some of the issues.

Whatever the trigger, the behaviors are here and in our faces. Bedtime routines are the worst. No matter how structured we are with the bedtime routine, shit seems to fall apart each night and someone ends up screaming in their rooms (usually it's Nate...just kidding). (Have I mentioned that my mouth tends to get out of control when I'm stressed? It's a bad habit.) Tonight I found myself standing in the kitchen, legs shaking as J screamed in his room because, after refusing to blow his nose and being warned twice, I used a baby snot sucker on him. While Jon screamed, Nate sat in K's room trying to get her to stop screaming (after he was goofing around with the kids, she got over the top silly and out of control, and he asked her to take some space to calm down...which of course means, cry and scream until you lose control of your body). I contemplated leaving, but I didn't know where to go since we now live in a town without a Target. I wish my first inclination was to get on my knees and pray, to surrender all of this to God, to repent for the anger and frustration I have towards my kids---but my gut reaction is to run....I realize this makes me terrible. My devotion this morning was all about submitting to God's timing and accepting His blessing with grace and communing with Him in times of struggle...but the later requires a trust that apparently I don't have right now.

To calm myself down, I exchanged texts with a friend who told me that I had to consider why these tantrums bother me so much....I think they bother me because they prevent me from having a "normal" relationship with my child. I feel like all I want is for things to be normal in my home. I want my kids to have normal experiences at school without behavior charts and trips to the principal's office. I want to be able to just go out and have fun as a family without having to talk with the kids about how to handle their urges to be silly, a reflection of their anxiety. I want to be able to be a normal family, and I'm ashamed that my home isn't normal.

I clearly need to let go of the idea of normality because nothing about my kids, about our home is "normal." It's not their fault...it's not my fault...it's not Nate's fault. It's just the way it is. Letting go of normal is just so difficult.


My foray into yoga

I've been a runner now for about ten years, and I've been fortunate to not have any major injuries. This year, though, my body often feels tight when I run, and I feel like I've lost some range of motion in my right leg. This could be my mind focusing on nearing 30, but I think this tightness is largely due to not supplementing my running with any other exercise---it's my body's way of protesting. My good friend and running partner, Kristin, has practiced yoga for awhile now and has enjoyed what it's done for her body. I trust Kristin more than I trust myself sometimes, so I decided to give this yoga business a try.

After doing some research, I found the Yoga with Adriene series on YouTube.  I started with her beginner videos and have expanded to her videos on strength, focus, and lengthening. Her weight loss videos are also great to tone the pesky mid-section. I'm not great at yoga yet, but I did hold the crow position for roughly .8 seconds today...so, that's progress, right? I'm not totally in love with the new-age feel of it; she uses a phrase, "Find what feels good for you," a lot and while I understand the implications for doing this in yoga (especially for beginners), this mantra has become one of our modern culture and is problematic in many ways....and rant over....ANYWAY...the Yoga with Adriene videos are not as new-agey as some of the other yoga videos I've seen. She's not burning incense and chanting odd things while turning her body into crazy pretzel shapes.

There are a few things I'm really digging about this new yoga adventure. First, I love, love, love the mindfulness piece of it. Because I'm so new to the practice, I have to really clear my head and focus only on my body and what it needs to do. It allows me some distance from the everyday chaos. When the closing music starts playing, I sometimes lay in the corpse position extra long listening to it. Next, I appreciate how my body feels after yoga (not always during!). I usually do yoga the day after a long run, so it allows me work out the kinks. I'd like to incorporate it more often into my weekly workout routine to see how it changes my range of motion especially in my right leg. When I do engage in a weekly yoga habit, I am able to see noticeable improvements in my flexibility and strength. The last reason I'm digging yoga is that it mixes up my workout routine--it keeps me from getting all crotchety about working out.

I'll leave you with a few short yoga sequences that I especially like. This is the first time I've ever had a "desk job," so I find my body just feeling terrible halfway through the day. I wouldn't be able to do this video ("Yoga at Your Desk") in its entirety since I work around lots of other people and they'd find me even more odd than I already am if I started doing this business in the tutoring center. However, I find myself modifying and doing a few moves in my seat when nobody is looking. I love the music and even the typography that comes across the screen--it just feels peaceful. This last one is called "Quick Stress Fix- 5 Minute Sequence." I seem to be stressed often  everyday, so this is a totally doable sequence I can do when I got home from work or even with my kids. If I were teaching full time, I'd do some of this as brain breaks. If you're looking for a way to mix up your work outs--give the Yoga with Adriene videos a try (or just try the two shorties I linked) and let me know what you think....


Not my own

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me..." (Galatians 2:20) 

My quiet time this morning was centered around this idea of submitting entirely to the will of God.


Sharing in the joy

So I just have to share some excitement today: My dear friend Kristin and her husband Jim have been pursuing infant adoption through a national adoption agency for just about a year. They got word last week that their profile was selected by a birth mother who wanted to meet them. After a video conference, they learned that this birth mother had selected them to parent her baby boy due in February! This has been a long awaited answer to prayers.


Parenting from a place of rest

A snapshot of one of my weeks from my Erin Condren planner (you need one of these planners in your lives!) 
Last Friday I listened to this podcast where writer, momma, and homeschooling parent Sarah Mackenzie talks with Tsh Oxenreider about an interesting concept: teaching from a state of rest (side bar: two posts in a row referencing Tsh Oxenreider...does that make me creepy??). I certainly agreed with many of Mackenzie's thoughts on this topic, but I found myself thinking more about what this means for me as a mother. I wondered how my parenting would change if I parented from a place of rest. As I've thought on this for a few days, I keep coming back to two questions:  What does parenting from a state of rest look like for me? Is this concept even possible?


Favorite Things

I stole this blog idea from one of my new favorite podcasts by Tsh Oxenreider. At the end of each podcast episode, she asks her guest what is making him/her happy. I realized that hearing these is a nice break from reality.  Sometimes I feel consumed by the crazy--by getting kids to where they need to be, by home improvement projects, by work, by helping our kids adjust...I wondered if making a list of what's making me happy, of my favorite things from time to time would help remind me that, among all the crazy, there are a host of "things" I enjoy. So, here goes....my first list of favorite things:


We're a high-needs family

Yesterday I exchanged texts with a fellow foster-adoptive momma who also has high-needs kiddos; she swore she was going to get a tattoo that reads, "If foster parenting is so much like standard parenting, why haven't you done it? I'm not asking for your pity so stop providing your less than helpful encouragement!" We commiserated together at the insensitive things people have said when trying to use empathy, and mostly it made us laugh and helped us relieve some tension. So today I'm thinking about what parents of high-needs kids need....


On Rejection

I spent nearly five months writing, revising, and editing a piece that was organized into 17 vignettes about our experiences adopting our children. The piece was difficult to write because my goal was to keep it honest so I could inform folks about what it's like to adopt children from the foster system and to come to foster-adoption through infertility and failed infant adoption. Out of all the thousands of pieces I've written, this was by far the hardest to write because, quite honestly, it just hurt. It required me to relive our infertility, the little boy we almost brought home and then lost, and remember our kids' broken lives and the struggles we've had and still have because of their pasts.


Book review: "Notes From a Blue Bike"

Seriously, I love public libraries. No matter where I've lived or what stage I've life I've been in, I've always found a use for my local public library. I've found some of my favorite books in the stacks at the library, learned about the services each community has to offer, and it's been a quiet place for my kids to enjoy. Whenever we move, the library is one of the first places I explore. It was no different when we moved to Grand Island. The library here has an awesome kids area and a great variety of books. During our last trip to the library, I ran across this gem (among a few others!) in the form of an audio book, and it's been keeping my company on my commute home from work each day.


I'm just killing it in this parenting gig

As if I needed another reminder that I am killing it as a parent, as I sat down to eat my breakfast at 10:45 AM and listen to last night's episode of Fresh  Air, it hit me that the kids went to school for the second Friday in a row without their show and tell items. I will also add that when I found out that our kids' teachers scheduled a weekly show and tell, I was excited that our kids had teachers who value who my kids are as individuals and who see the importance of bringing a bit of home into school. I was filled with nostalgia of my own elementary school days of show and tell at St. James Catholic School--remembering once that a girl brought a real, live, breathing, and pooping sheep into class to show us (the rules were instantly changed to prevent live animals from coming to show and tell). I don't remember anything I brought, but I remember selecting my show and tell items and the excitement I felt the night before. I have such a fondness for show and tell, but I can't, for the life of me, remember to tell my freaking kids about it on Thursday nights.


I'm back...

After a long hiatus from blogging here, I'm back in the saddle  at the keyboard.  Here's a brief run down of what's taken me away from updating this blog:


The power of the human voice

StoryCorps Logo
For as long as I can remember, I've loved stories. I loved writing stories, telling stories, and reading stories. Like many writers, as a kid, I often spent my days and nights reading; about the age of 8, I became car sick each time I tried to read in the car...it was devastating for me. How would I pass the time driving the two hours to my grandparents' house each weekend?! I realize this isn't the greatest quality, but as a kid, I could craft these amazing lies rife with details and color. Having an audience to listen to my stories filled me with the same kind of adrenaline I now feel when competing in athletic events.


Acts 2: 42-47

About a year ago, Nate and I found our way to a new church we're glad to call home here in Omaha. Since being a part of CityLight, we've been challenged and encouraged to grow.


Bathroom Fears

It's been too long since I last posted here. I've been consumed with kids and another writing project that's kept me from posting on this blog. This morning I found a few spare minutes before I head to a sub job, so I thought I'd break the silence today with a poem I wrote a few weeks ago--it's not great, but it's different from anything I've written before, so I kind of like it.


From haggard to happy

I've almost made it through two weeks without a full time teaching gig. And I gotta say...it's awesome. I've been able to pick up somewhere between 15-20 hours each week of shifts at the Writing Center at various Omaha Metro Community College campuses, I'm being added to sub lists at Millard, Bennington, and Fort Calhoun, so hopefully I'll be able to sub in a few weeks. I'm even judging a speech meet (like the good ole days of my first two years of teaching) on Friday night for some extra cash.

I've had time to clean my house, grocery shop, make meals, write, run, play guitar, make bread (yeah...I'm making my own bread now...Sara Lee can shove it up her butt), read, run errands, and visit the kids' classrooms, and after I pick the kids up from school I'm physically free and mentally ready to spend time with them. I'm even able to keep the kids at home longer in the mornings. When I was teaching, I dropped them off at 7 AM each morning to make it to work in time (they don't start school until 9). Today they slept in until 6:15, and I kept them home until 8:20 and dropped them off on my way to work this morning. Until the end of February, Nate's schedule is busy with musical rehearsals in the evenings and honor choirs on the weekends, and I haven't been stressed about it because I'm not juggling kids, maintaining a home, and grading over 300 things each week.

It has taken me a few weeks to escape panic mode--I wasn't panicking about not having a job, I just always felt like I was forgetting something. My adult life has never been this free before..hell, even when I was in high school, I was stretched thin. Training my brain to calm down and chill out has been difficult, but I think I'm finally "settled" in my new routine. I love being able to serve my family and put their needs first. Perhaps I'm still in the honeymoon phase, but I haven't been this happy in a long time...


Warning: Cliche metaphor up ahead

A blank screen waiting to be filled with typface seems fitting for a few cliche reasons: 1) It's a new year and B) I'm at a new point in my life. I am a blank screen waiting to be filled with a new story....GAG. What a cliche....but...it's sorta true. I've reached a new point in life that is both freeing and frightening. For all of my adult life (all 8 years of it) I've been either moving towards teaching or teaching. While my recent move away from teaching full time is necessary, I'm nervous. My brain is naturally inclined towards thinking of unit plans and lessons and writing ideas and journal prompts. Most of what I talk about with just about everyone revolves around my job. I found myself today with a few spare hours kid free, and normally I'd fill that time with grading or planning or emailing, but today---nothing. Should I nap? Read? Watch multiple episodes of Gilmore Girls? Play guitar? My options were open for the first time in quite a while. It was freaky and unsettling and very refreshing. It's going to feel even more weird when Nate goes back to school on Monday and I don't. All this nonsense aside, I have noticed that without the commitment of full time teaching, I have more patience for my children. I've wanted to actually play with them, and I've been willing and able to take them to two public places that crawl with children (a place filled with bouncy inflatable obstacle type contraptions AND the children's museum) all within 24 hours. I've noticed that I've yelled less at my kids; I'm well-rested, and I've made actual meals for dinner and not frozen, pre-made junk. While this new identity thing is a bit uncomfortable and will take some getting used to, I'm looking forward to attacking the cliche blank screen metaphor.