Monday, March 24, 2014

Toned arms and a heavy slice of life

I have been trying to figure out what has been keeping me from my blog for so long (despite the fact that I am fully six months pregnant and have four children ages 4,3,2, and 1 running around the house). It's not for lack of desire to write and post pictures and be "that parent" who runs a full household, urban farm, is starting a small business, and also manages an interesting life style blog. (Maybe someday...when there aren't so many poopy diapers in the mix...)

I was talking to a friend the other night about my blog when the reason started pouring out of my mouth before I had even processed it myself. And if you know me, you probably know that I tend to choose my words carefully before they are said (no puffing myself up here, this is just part of being an introvert). And here's the reason: It's incredibly hard for me to write about my life when I have to intentionally leave the main pieces out. And when I discreetly put those pieces in, they carry more weight than I expect most of my readers want to carry.

I am parenting four children day in and day out. It's not too bad, actually (after getting used to parenting four, only two kids feels WAY too easy to be normal). But two of those children I am not allowed to publicly talk or write about, post pictures of, or really even write about how it is affecting the rest of our lives. How can I tell stories or share pictures involving only two of my daughters and pretend the other two don't exist? It seems in genuine to me. And I am uncomfortable with it.

So today, you are going to feel some weight. Realize that we are happy, despite circumstances. God is good, we love our family, and have a lot of joy day to day. But life isn't carefree. And this is what I am about to share. My life revolves around the care of my children in this season of life. The four-year-old is required to be in a weekly preschool, and her and her sister have endless doctor's appointments, developmental screenings, family visits and therapy. A week and a half ago, we caught a virus that circled around for over a week until it finally left us able to get out of the house and back into our normal routines. The two-year-old in my care has an issue with being physically violent to other children and adults and is verbally offensive to everyone who she talks to. My arms are physically sore from lifting her 40 pounds (yes, she's a big two year old) in and out of her crib over ten times a day for time outs. At least my arms are toned though. Silver lining?

Every evening at bedtime, Eric fights a 45 minute battle to put the four year old in our care to bed. EVERY NIGHT. And every night, the same routines and then consequences happen. And yet, she still won't go to bed until she has screamed for 45 minutes straight. I am beyond thankful to Eric for voluntarily dealing with this every night upon coming into the house from work. But I think you can understand now why I dealt with heavy depression the entire month of January. In February, it lifted, and with a part time nanny in place on a weekly basis and a vacation that Eric and I enjoyed thoroughly without the kids, we welcomed in March. March has been cold, but it has been good to my soul. My seeds are started indoors and I am eagerly awaiting my garden this spring.

Lexi and Lyla are normal kids for their ages. Our training with them seems so minor compared to our foster daughters, sometimes it is a relief when it is one of them acting up instead of the others.

I want you to know that being a foster parent might be one of the most difficult things you can offer yourself up for in life. At least it feels like that, in my case. Just because something is difficult should never deter you from doing something that God is pressing on your heart, but just because He is asking you to give of yourself in a huge way doesn't mean the road will be smooth. But it will be blessed. Sure, it would probably have been easier if we didn't already have our own kids. Or if we waited until our own kids were grown. But we weren't told to wait. We were asked to open our hearts and home now. And so we are doing.

A lot of people have commented to me that they couldn't do foster care because it would be too hard to send the kids back to their original families when the time came (assuming the child's court order did not change to adoption). While I haven't experienced this part yet, I think they might be wrong. Wouldn't it be worth celebrating if the mom of my kids got her life together and could be the mom that they need? The hardest part of foster parenting for us is living day to day with the pain that has been inflicted on the two children in our care due to the parents' poor choices and lack of responsibility. The fact that I have to tell my four-year-old that she can't live with her mom right now because her mom "has some things she has to work on" is heartbreaking and infuriating. The sadness and loss of a forced separation runs so deep that no child should ever ever ever have to feel it. And yet mine do. It is all they know. Every day they are living in it. And yet they still run into my arms and call me their Mama.

Sometimes, when the day is long and the behavior issues are intense and too numerous to count, I find myself filled with intense anger. Not towards the kids, but sadly, sometimes a small piece of it gets taken out on them. It is anger towards their Mom. And I never realized before now how hard it is to forgive someone who is actively destroying their child's life because of selfish decisions. Matthew 18:21-22 makes so much more sense now. It's when Peter asks the Lord how many times he should forgive someone and the Lord answers with a ridiculously huge number, indicating that we are to be engaged in active forgiveness. A daily forgiving. This is the Gospel. Caring for a woman's children that have been removed from her due to an unacceptable life style, and yet still loving that woman. Disciplining her children, cleaning them after illness, feeding them, loving them, working with them through their trauma, wiping their butts and washing their faces and holding them when they scream at night. And still loving the Mom who birthed them into all of this confusion. I pray for her every night with the girls at bedtime. But sometimes my heart isn't in it. Sometimes I wish she wouldn't get better so that we could just adopt the girls and cut the ties and get rid of the confusion and simply give them a good life. It could happen. But who am I to wish that on someone? Who am I to think that their mom doesn't deserve to have her children? That is not my place to say. And I am ashamed and confused when I realize that my anger towards her has made me resistant to truly loving and bonding with her children, who are also my children. For now.

Do you see how complex this is?
And yet, even with all the complexity, our lives are more fulfilled now than they have ever been.

I have just three months left of my pregnancy. I can't believe this little surprise baby is already almost here. The girls are so excited and tell me endlessly how much they love my baby. Lol. I don't know how life will be when the baby is born, or if I can learn to nurse while breaking up fights simultaneously. But I am seriously thinking of buying one of those ropes with all the rings on it that daycares use to take the kids on walks. Seems like a good investment at this point.

Along with my pregnancy, we are also expecting goats! I can't wait!!!! Now that I got all of this emotional junk out to air, you will be hearing more about them soon. Eric built a gorgeous little shed for them with the cutest door. He also built a fence around it so they can enjoy the fresh air without us getting goat berries on our shoes. ;-) Jane, our short little fat goat, is due to deliver this week or early next! We are expecting 3-5 kids from her and probably 2 from Clarabelle. A few weeks after she delivers, we will be milking. Yes, we live in the city and will be milking our goats twice a day. And making cheese. And Eric's more excited about it than I am (and I'm pretty excited!). I seriously married the best man. :-)

Here's to Monday. Here's to my crazy sounding life and adventures. Here's to a run-on post that is as heavy as lead. And here's to a new chapter in my blog where you will get the heavy in a discreet way, while also (hopefully soon) get to see lots of pictures (have to go dust off my camera) of two of my adorable children with equally adorable baby goats. Stay tuned. They're coming soon!

Friday, March 7, 2014

22 Weeks and counting

Here's me in front of my smeary fingerprinted mirror (I love all my kids!) at 22 weeks pregnant with baby #3. 
We finally had our mid-pregnancy ultrasound this morning and everything is looking great! 
In the typical fuzzy grey of the ultrasound picture, you can see the profile of the baby's head and one of it's hands just peeking up over its chest. The baby weighs one pound and was extremely active (as usual) during the ultrasound, kicking and squirming and even delighting us with a cute little yawn.

And, since most of you are already wondering when I am finally going to reveal what gender we are having....................................................................................................................................................................................................[insert drum roll here].....................................................................................

IT'S A..............................................GIRL!!!!

.................................. or a BOY!!!!

It's definitely not a velociraptor (although some of the ultrasound pics had me wondering...), but it is definitely our baby. :-) Per usual, we won't know the gender until baby's birthday. In my opinion, it's one of the best surprises life can give and, for me personally, it is worth the wait!

Even with all the crazy of our household, I am so looking forward to meeting our newest little one in the beginning of July. God gives good and timely gifts for a reason. :-)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A little Mexican sunshine...on a cold winter's day

Today is Tuesday. Kids therapy day. Laundry day. Pack lunches day. Preschool drop off and pick up day. Short naps and crabby kids day. Cold day. But sunny day.

So with the lazy weekend behind us and the long week looming, what better day than to look at some pictures of Eric and my vacation last week!?!

If you think this post is mean, I truly don't mean it to be. Really. But when you have four kids four and under and are pregnant with the fifth and some lovely friends gift you with the finances to use specifically to pack up and take a warm tropical vacation with your best grab your passport pronto and get to the airport as fast as the taxi will take you!

Which is exactly what we did.

Welcome to Playa del Carmen, located in Quintana Roo, Mexico. 

Here we are looking rather terrible (I really never want to see this picture anywhere else, Mom....ahem), but quite happy to have all the time in the world to relax and do absolutely nothing. 
We spent a few days at a lovely resort right on the beach. It wasn't a long vacation, by any means, but it was perfect for being warm, having fun together, and taking the break from our daily lives that we have so desperately needed. Coincidentally, we were there over the weekend of my birthday. So on my birthday, to fulfill one of my dreams, we went snorkeling (for the first time) in a gorgeous reef out in a protected area. It was a truly unforgettable experience! I also took the opportunity to spend some birthday money on a prenatal massage (which was glorious) at the spa connected to the resort. I don't remember the last time I really did much of anything for myself, so it was a huge treat!

The resort property was huge and filled with all kinds of tropical trees, wildlife, walking trails, and ancient Mayan ruins. I LOVE seeing history face to face and was excited to find five or six different sites with identifiable ruins within walking distance of our room.
 As of last week, 21 weeks pregnant and rounding out quite nicely. ;-) And if you remember any of my stories from my last two pregnancies, this little babe is just as wild and athletic as the other two!
 And there were flowers!!!! Gorgeous big beautiful flowers!!! I couldn't help myself. This winter has been decidedly way too long and cold for my liking. favorite flower of Mexico. It will forever remind me of home there.
Saying goodbye to the ocean was sad...
But coming home to my four girls (two of them not pictured) is always a joy as well.

I am so very thankful for our dear friends who have been walking alongside us throughout our foster parenting journey and who so generously blessed us with the finances to allow Eric and I to take a few days away together. It was so very needed. And to Eric's lovely mother, who drove all the way here and heroically parented our girls single-handedly while we were gone! We owe you a world of thanks!

Through all of our hardships this winter, we have been so blessed to see the Lord provide for us again and again through the Body of believers around us. When we walk in obedience to His call, He provides, always. And always more than we could ever ask or imagine. Our day to day life and parenting in this season is really really hard. But we aren't doing it alone. And for that I am thankful.