Saturday, August 29, 2015

C/O The White House

Conleigh is apparently my child.  She is a dreamer, a visionary.  She thinks big ideas and in big pictures.  She always has a grand idea.  Sometimes, those grand ideas are not so grand.  Like making her own blueberry muffins with flour and water and something blue...outside...on the outdoor sofa.  Or shooting baskets from the roof if the van because it is obviously going to improve her odds.  And sometimes her heart's desires are pretty darn awesome.  Like wanting to sell lemonade to raise money for Haiti.  Or her student council campaign which boasted a platform of kindness, a desire to help her school, and the assertion that all people should be treated the same no matter what color their skin is.  She also wanted to write the President regarding the requirements to become President, seeing as she (and two of her brothers) are ineligible for the presidency because they were not burn in the US.  They are not naturalized citizens; they have full citizenship based upon the nationalities of their parents, assumed once their feet hit US soil, for anyone who might be wondering.   Oh how I hope she always wants to move mountains.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Kenson is nine.  It's an age I really like.

An array of stuffed animals arranged on the floor for a football game, long lanky arms and legs folded up to fit into my lap as we rock-I'm keenly aware that these things will not last forever.  How much longer will they last?

Moments that alternate between little boy and a maturing big kid.  Between those moments I catch glimpses if the grown up he is going to be.  Quick to smile and warm up the room.  A gentle heart that swoons for little ones, who understands how to talk to babies and pacify toddlers.    Testing out a sense of humor.  Looking for jobs to practice using a screwdriver and a hammer.  

This year's wishes?  A Lego cake, decorated himself.  A trip to the children's museum not with friends but with his siblings.  A remote controlled helicopter.  Happy year nine!

Kai and Kenson on the "yee haw" at the children's museum.
No idea why Kai calls horses that but it's kind of funny.

Children's Museum-Conleigh on the stage

On the stage while Zeke and Kenson run the lights and sound

Children's museum rocket ship

Kenson with his Lego cakes

The birthday helicopter

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ha ha

The two year old who has a pretty limited vocabulary even as two year olds go crawled up on a box to use it as a stool to reach a full glass of water and dump it.  His reaction?  'Ha ha!'  Mom's reaction?  'Clean it up.'  So thankful that we cannot say milk or cup but we can say "ha ha!"

Saturday, August 8, 2015


You might be raising a boy if...

he comes in from outside, into the kitchen, and proceeds to show you his broken flip flop.  When you send him over to throw it away, you turn back to where he once was standing and there is a frog on the floor.  Upon asking why there is a frog inside, he nonchalantly says (as in oh, yes, I thought I was forgetting something), "I must have left him in my pocket."  For the record, this is the second day this week there has been a frog inside.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Literary Influence

Weighed down with a Nerf rifle and several Nerf pistols, today I watched as my kids played make believe while wrapped up in the magic of a great book.  Can you guess their inspiration?

"Yes, I just shot a turkey!"  (Followed by Mom saying, "Zeke, quit shooting the dog.")

"Downstairs can be Independence."

"Let's save the squirrel because we are going to need food to eat during the winter."

"We're almost like Laura and Mary but not quite."

All done while jamming to the tunes of Kidz Bop and Call Me Maybe on their tablets.  (Insert wrinkled forehead from Mom.)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Planned Irony

I rarely insert myself into online conversations regarding complex and divisive topics like abortion.  In general, I don't think an online debate is a productive way to approach such things.   But the Planned Parenthood videos and subsequent conversations have perhaps persuaded me to broach the topic here.

I understand the arguments put forth by those who support a woman's right to choose.  I understand the concerns about the viability of the infant, of how to determine when life begins.  I understand that many who consider themselves pro choice are adamantly against abortion but believe it is not right to force others to view things the same way.  I do not suffer from a lack of understanding what others believe.

That said, perhaps the reason the Planned Parenthood videos are so shocking is because of the callousness with which the employees act regarding a dismembered child.  A conversation where someone admits that they can navigate the procedure in such a way that organs are intact but a skull is crushed should shock us.

For me, abortions performed later in pregnancy, are a completely different story than those performed early in pregnancy.  There is such irony in the idea of a later term abortion.  I find the idea that a baby/fetus who is not human yet is considered a source for human organs and tissue problematic.  Regardless of if Planned Parenthood received any monetary reimbursement, it is clear that fetal tissue and organs are a commodity, to be used to research human medical conditions.  

Perhaps the most pressing reason for me wanting to discuss the irony of the current climate involving abortions has more to do with sharing perspective rather than arguing viewpoints.  Because my perspective as the mom of a child with limb differences will forever alter my views on abortion.  Because of Zeke's limb differences, I am a member of several online forums for parents who have children with limb differences.  Many of those parents were made aware of their child's limb difference via an ultrasound.  And many of those same parents were immediately offered the option of abortion.  That to me was shocking.  Because Zeke is adopted, I had never considered that someone would be given that option because their child was missing a limb and I had never considered that there would be parents who would use abortion in this way.  The irony of selling (or at the very least donating) the body parts of a child who was potentially rejected for a lack of body parts is not lost on me.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

When Anything is Nothing

Keep an organized prayer journal, full of verses you've prayed for your children and husband.  Spend 30 minutes a day, mediating and chewing on spiritual things. Serve more.  There always seems to be this list running through my head about what I ought to be doing as a good Christian woman.  Add in my own issues with over achievement plus my task oriented personality and it's a lovely little mix of a woman who delights in finishing projects, in accomplishing things (yes, even the spiritual things), and in doing meaningful, worthwhile jobs.  I dream big, see the big picture, and value eternity.  And sometimes, this stay-at-home mom gig can end up falling short of those expectations.

Pray like a prayer warrior with heartfelt writing and references to Scripture?  Some days, forming coherent sentences to the people who live in my house is a challenge.  Follow a Bible study all the way through, start to finish?  Too often I'm choosing between Bible time, showering, breakfast, and exercise.  Finish one list of projects and then tackle a few more?  More often than not, I get the dishes and laundry done and then count anything else as a bonus.  Be inspired to tasks that leave their mark in eternity?  Scrubbing sticky counters and continually sweeping the floor just doesn't feel all that inspiring.

To stay home, I left a job I loved, where my gifts for teaching, compassion, creativity, and organization were utilized daily.  My old job was one where I believed in the purpose of my position, where I believed that what I was doing mattered, where I could often see progress.  In some ways, it is easy to compare that old job to staying at home and feel like I am being stifled, to wonder if I ought to be doing something that impacts more people than just my brood of four.  In many ways, the easier task for me to do would be to be teaching full time.

We have been studying the book, Anything, by Jennie Allen as part of our church's summer Bible study. The author tells her story of praying to God, "Anything. I will do anything you want".  It's about this prayer of surrender, where we willingly admit that unless we are living yielded to Him in all things, then we are living a life where we will never really be fulfilled.  For me, I've prayed such a prayer many times, over many different areas of my life, from my marriage, to my adoptions and pregnancy, to health issues.  So the concept isn't exactly new to me.  But looking at my mundane, not-so-flashy life and holding it up next to the idea of "anything" easily causes me to think I should be doing more.

I think most of us, especially those of us who appear successful by the standards of the world, like the idea of doing more.  When you believe yourself to be capable of such achievements, when we feel like we measure up most of the time, it's not wonder we find our value in those things.  It's all tied to our performance based thinking, where we know that God loves us but where we feel like doing more for Him will prove our relationship and will somehow cause Him to feel differently about us.  We know in our heads that He loves us the same regardless of what we do but our hearts slip into making His love like the love of people, where hearts are swayed because of the way someone has acted.

In my own life, in terms of vocation, it's easy to look at the tasks of homemaking, and then feel discontent.  Thinking about the monotony of life at home can cause me to wish that I could be impacting eternity in a much grander way like if I were teaching or working at another service oriented job.  My humanness somehow makes it all about a math equation where my kids' souls are one side of a sideways v, indicating that those lives one impacts while teaching are somehow more important.  I forget that God doesn't keep score like I do, that He cares equally for each one of the people in that equation.

In terms of my spiritual life, I can't help but feel a twinge of guilt when I compare my life now to my pre-kid life.  In this moment, I cannot keep up a prayer journal.  I cannot keep up with a Bible reading plan.  I cannot keep up with a Bible study that requires a significant time investment.  Instead, I find myself on Sunday mornings taking in big gulps of His presence, believing that my time in Sunday school and worship time is the air that keeps me from drowning.  Most Sundays I find myself sitting in worship, continually praying.

"Take it all, take it all, my life is in Your hands."

"All to Jesus, I surrender.  I surrender all."

"In my heart and my soul, I give You control.  Consume me from the inside out."

"Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise."

Over and over, it seems like my Sundays are full of that simple prayer, that I would have a heart that knows well Who it belongs to.

So what if my anything really feels like nothing?  What if saying anything to God means not working at a job where I daily impact scores of people?  What if saying anything to God is not about my portfolio of spiritual activities?  What if saying anything is more about not doing any of the things that make me look better in the eyes of others?  What if saying anything is not about a tangible product, where at the end of the day I can easily assess just how good of a job I've done?  What if instead, my anything is murky and messy?  I'm pretty sure right now, my life right now is not the pinnacle of Christian living.  There will be no book titled, "Ten Steps to Being the Woman God Wants You to Be."  based upon my life.  But perhaps the alternative is just as precious to God, a story based on His unwavering love for me that does not want my performance but instead merely my heart.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Kids, the Amygdala and Me

School starts in a week here and my big three are all going nuts.  Every single one of them has been struggling this week.  Bickering with the occasional bout of sibling violence.  Back talk and eye rolling.  Arguing.  Nonsense questions.  Constant chatter.  Silly noises and excessive loudness.  They are driving us a bit batty.

They all know change is coming and are unsettled and antsy.  It is definitely easy to look at the craziness and be annoyed.  In all honesty, my kids are irritating the stink out of me.  But underneath all of that, there is more.

It helps to know that their brains are reacting to the transition between summer and school and to really understand the brain science behind their behavior.  Ding, ding, ding!  Here's the important part, the cliff notes version:   anxiety and impulsivity are actually managed by the same portion of the brain.  The limbic system is the part of our brain that is responsible for our emotions.  Within that portion of our brain is a small section called the amygdala.  The amygdala controls how we respond to stimuli.  In the case of stressful situations, our amygdala hijacks our ability to rationally think and instead creates more of  a spontaneous, instant reaction.  Sometimes, that's good.  We see a car hurtling down the street, so we yell at our kids to stop and instantly grab their hands.  Sometimes, that's not so good.  We feel stressed and anxious and momentarily lose our ability to logically act.  We get angry at another driver while on the road and say not so nice things.  We head to an event where we know no one and find ourselves struggling to even introduce ourselves.

For our kids, this back to school transition time means their brains are now flooded with thoughts that are both exciting and stressful.  Like marbles set loose inside of a cake pan, thoughts like "I can't wait to see my friends!" and "I hope they serve pizza for lunch on the first day!" roll right alongside thoughts like "What if I can't get my locker open?" and "What if I get into the line and no one, absolutely no one, says hello to me?"  As kids consciously (or subconsciously) worry and fret about potential issues and the uncertainty of the unknown, the amygdala jumps in and acts.  There is no thinking through how actions connect to consequences.  They get wild and crazy but are upset if an adult tells them to calm down.  They instigate their siblings and then act surprised when a fight erupts.  They act immature and do things they normally would not do like cutting their hair or jumping on the couch or mixing together flour and food coloring in a baking experiment that should have resulted in blueberry muffins but somehow didn't.  (Don't ask...)   The filter that should exist between their mouth and their brain gets switched off and they sass or chatter to fill the silence or make noise just because.

To be clear, having an overactive amygdala does not excuse bad behavior.  But it does give us as parents a frame of reference for understanding our kids and for interacting with them.    As with any relationship, it helps to redefine the relationship and remember that the other party is not the enemy.  If you are in the same boat as me, where you are looking at the last remaining days of summer and fear for your sanity due to your kids' behaviors, repeat after me, "My kids are not the enemy."  Anxiety and fear are the enemy, tools created by Satan to cripple and bind,  to divide and isolate.

It also helps to interact with our kids in a way that makes them emotionally resilient, to help them recognize that they are feeling anxious and to speak truth to them as they combat that anxiousness.  Maybe they need to say their worries outloud.  Maybe they need someone to speak truth to them about who they really are, that they are a friendly, loving, smart kid who is capable.  Maybe they need someone to fill their love tank up with physical affection.  Maybe they need to problem solve their potential problems and to create an action plan for those items that really are bothering them.  Those things all increase their felt safety which basically means that if our kids feel safer, then they will act in more rational ways.

For me, probably the hardest thing is to not let my kids' stress become my own stress.  Cranky wackadoo kids often means for a cranky wackadoo mom which often means more yelling and less gentleness.   Unfortunately, that's all a bit cyclic.  Yelling and stomping and punishing and being harsh usually just amps up the stress level which in turn just feeds Mr. Amygdala and results in more impulsive, anxious behavior.

So what's a mom to do?  We're heading out this week on several day trips to the YMCA pool and to the children's museum.  The pool at home and the slip and slide are ready to go.  We might hit the library.  We're going to try to keep ourselves busy and not bored.  I'm going to try to let go of my own agendas for cleaning and my own projects so I am able to be more present and not annoyed by the constant interruptions that I would surely have.

Want to know more?  Dan Siegel has a ton of books on brain science and parenting.  They are easy to read, practical and insightful.