the mud of every day

_MG_4533

My husband and I have made some hard choices with our lives. We are introverted, and intensely interested in understanding things, and neither of us had ever been particularly drawn to working with kids before we married. So… we decided to go ahead and have four kids by birth and then proceeded to adopt two more! We home- school. I have always stayed at home with our kids.

Did we choose these things because we feel like this is what all moms should do, for religious reasons? No. Absolutely not. We simply both always wanted to give the gift of homeschooling to our kids, the gift of opportunity to pursue interesting things. We both are passionate about education, about learning, and we wanted to share this with our kids. We felt homeschooling gave us the best chance to do this. Not that it is the only way to do so, but possibly the best that we could offer. My husband had the job he liked and my college degree was not a career path I wanted to follow.

This last year was very very hard. The adoption of children suffering from the trauma caused by neglect and abuse, and years of moving from home to home in the foster system, has been incredibly tough. Their behaviors and the changes we’ve all had to go through in adopting them into the family have caused all of us more stress than we had hoped. It is real. But we felt and continue to feel that difficult things are worth doing. These children are precious and need love, need acceptance, need to be wanted.

For this coming school year we have made the hard decision to send three of our children to a charter school, hoping that the provided structure and presence of additional adults might help one or two of them specifically. We also feel the kids may need some separation, as anxiety and stress seems to be running rampant through the whole family. We will see how it works out, and we keep the homeschooling of all of them in our back pocket. Our oldest studied through an online school this last year, and although he stressed a bit too much about the work involved, actually expressed that he liked it and especially the chance to be in the same class with his cousin who lives distantly. My second oldest plans to do this same school this year. This will leave one for which I will need to do all of the work, one who we think could use more attention that we weren’t able to give so much of this past year. We will see how it goes.

It is so so easy to be bogged down in the seemingly mundane details of everyday life. This is something I have struggled with regularly. It is easy to allow myself to feel jealous: jealous of women who can leave home to work at a meaningful job where their interaction is with adults; jealous of moms who send their kids to school – allowing at least a few hours each day when they are not accosted with kids’ questions, needs, demands, problems, or wants and actually have time to be creative; jealous of my husband who goes to work and studies hard scientific problems for hours at a time; jealous of people who have friends who offer them things – meals, cleaning, etc. – or who simply like to hang out with them; jealous of people who seem to have it all together and seem to acquire close friends at all.

But really, this is being idealistic about others, because I feel overwhelmed. The reality is that we all have our struggles. We all have our gifts. We all have our problems. There is no rosy perfect life, and we each have to make our own choices within our lives. Some of us make tough decisions, some of have tough things fall into our laps.

Meanwhile, tomorrow I have to get up… again. I have to get breakfast …again. I have to again care for the kids’ needs, clean, do dishes and laundry, put out fights, separate children, comfort hurts. I have to face the reality of being screamed at, being hit, being contradicted and argued with, and being followed around all day because one little person can’t figure out how to play with others well. I have to address rudeness with kindness and reminders to retry with respect. I have to try not to take things personally…  again.

The mud of every day doesn’t stop. We have to keep wading through it. We need to keep seeking moments of peace. We need to appreciate the little things throughout the day to keep us going. Some of you have friends and family who actively support you, appreciate them.

_MG_4014

consider

_MG_4631-2

It’s been hard to post lately. I’ve felt so beat down for months. It is hard to find time for true silence. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say. I have taken few images other than those snapped quickly in a moment – nothing worth talking about except to share with family.

Last weekend we tried camping one night with the whole family. As should be expected, one of our little ones who we adopted (the one who wears me down all day with the need for constant attention and little attempts at control with rude statements and contradictions, if not full blown yelling and tantrums) didn’t deal well with the stimulation and being required to lie quietly among the other 7 people in the family in the tent without being disruptive and trying to seize control of another moment. We didn’t even get to try sleeping till midnight or later, and then all night there were interruptions – someone crying, someone too scrunched up in their sleeping bag, one of the dogs stepping on someone, etc, etc. We were exhausted.

But breakfast went pretty well, cooked over the campfire. And then, after packing up, we took one last hike.

My youngest relished it. She walked next to her daddy and stopped to investigate little flowers and plants all along the trail. That night in bed she confided to me: “I wish plants could be alive!”.  I told her “They are, but just not like us”. She said “I wish they could be like us and pull up their roots and walk and talk!”.

It occurred to me that this is exactly how we should cherish the world around us. Each little plant is valuable and beautiful. It is worth stopping to consider it. While it is relatively easy to say each person is valuable and beautiful, it is easier to say than act on. But I think if we consider the least of the living things in this way – as worthwhile – then the rest of life follows. That little plant growing off of the roots of oak trees is beautiful. The tiny flowering plant is beautiful. The wee horned lizard that hopped across the trail is beautiful. The little child and all their feelings and thoughts is worth our time and love. The child who struggles with voicing his/her inner turmoil, who struggles with trust, is worth us sticking with them. You are worth it, you are worth spending time considering and loving.

_MG_4022

April 2016

blame

I started writing this in January, and just now have decided to finish the thought and publish it.

_MG_4590

I think we all have internal things we need to process, but to process them is difficult.

When we begin to do so, the easiest first (and possibly only) step we can/may take, is to blame someone or something for what we are feeling. It dissolves us of too much effort. Maybe there is someone or something that is at least partially to blame for things we have experienced, but if we leave it at the blame, we take no responsibility for our response.

Once we blame, it is very easy to continue to be sidetracked into sharing or even looking for more opportunities to blame. I see people blame family, friends, the medical system/doctors, vaccines, the government, religious organizations/churches, schools, teachers, other government organizations, pesticides, GMOs, and the list goes on. It is so much easier to jump on a bandwagon of blame than to face our own response to setbacks in life and take responsibility for changing ourselves. It is much simpler to “get out” our frustration through the process of blaming, or make ourselves feel better by letting everyone know how opinionated we are on some issue, than to stop and consider what we are doing to change ourselves.

Do any of these blame-able things actually cause problems? – maybe so, probably so. But am I a perfect person who always does everything right? No, I just wish I was. When you combine multiple finite people in any group or organization, failure happens. Communication can break down, things move more slowly, mistakes happen, people make bad choices. I cannot be responsible for the failures of others. I can only be responsible for my own failures, and my own responses to setbacks. Each of us have the choice to respond and grow from every experience, or to remain in a grudge.

I alone can choose to allow myself to be challenged to grow as a person. I can choose to let my experiences make me more understanding, more loving, and maybe just a little bit more kind.

_MG_4526

facing the internal

_MG_0630

When we are faced with silence, we have the opportunity to face our internal dialog, our thoughts. And this is important. Incredibly important. As a parent, I need to find silent times in order to process all my conflicting thoughts and desires. If I hide them with noise and human interaction, I only put off what I really need to do to become a better parent, friend, partner, child.

In silence, I face myself. I can be honest. I can explore my feelings, verbalize them, and work through them. I can allow myself to feel sad and lonely or whatever else I’m feeling. I am not always able to solve problems, but I can make choices for how to proceed myself.

_MG_0696

hurdles

hurdles

Life is full of them. We can see them as road blocks, or we can see them as intermediary steps. We can let them overwhelm us, or we can choose to see them as learning experiences. In reality, I think all of these are normal. Sometimes we can honestly say we feel overwhelmed, we feel sad, we feel discouraged. And then, even though we may feel that way, we keep walking forward, trusting there is something to learn, trusting there is something, a real destination, beyond this. And sometimes we can see the beauty in the moment.

A bit of our story. This year was a transition time for our family. We chose to adopt. We were licensed as foster parents so that we could adopt a child or more (preferably siblings) that were freed for adoption. We knew it would be tough. We knew we were asking our kids to take on a huge challenge – that of welcoming new kids into our home and taking them on as true siblings. We talked extensively as a family, and our biological children were on board. We all felt that sharing our love with more was right and good. In June (after the school year was done) we met them and began transitioning them into our home – two beautiful siblings.

Now we have finalized. On National Adoption Day (November 21st) we finalized, so they belong to us now. I could talk about their diagnoses, about the challenges, and I could talk extensively. However, I prefer to share that all kids freed for adoption come from hard places. They all have much to overcome.

If a biological child suddenly is diagnosed with a terrible illness (i.e. cancer), the family is suddenly thrown into all it takes to get through. They study, they talk with people, they find medical help, and it is assumed that everyone should pull together to support them. The family never thinks “this is too hard; I’m done; Let’s not keep this kid”.

When a child comes from a hard place, I see it as no different. That kid needs to heal. This may take years, and true healing will take everyone pouring themselves into helping that child. The parents should be reading about what they need to address in themselves to truly be able to be present for that child. They need to focus on what truly loving someone and focusing on connecting really looks like. The family and other kids need to realize that giving of themselves is necessary in order to see that child heal. And they do so. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it easy to lose sight of the goals? Absolutely. We can feel overwhelmed, and unloved and un-thanked. The process is incredibly lonely. But do we have a right to say, “this kid is too hard, we can’t do this, take him/her back”? I won’t answer that question for you, although I know my own answer. Does it affect our biological kids? Absolutely. They are challenged to love outside of themselves. They are challenged to try to understand someone other than themselves. They have to give up ease, in order to care for someone else. I love that they are learning this important life concept within the love and support of our own home.

Before you take on the process, you should absolutely weigh the costs. We couldn’t take a child with certain medical issues, as we have a house full of stairs, and already four kids. Certain kids need more one on one attention than we actually have to give. Certain kids wouldn’t be safe in our rather open home. Certain kids wouldn’t be safe around our other kids without the constant supervision that isn’t possible to give here. We have to decide before hand if we are going to commit to the love of this child, if we can commit, without turning back. Not everyone is ready. Not everyone can honestly do this. Not everyone is financially or emotionally ready. All kids need attention. All kids need our pure and unquestionable love.

While finalization of the adoption in court has happened for us, we really are only at the beginning of the trail. We have many steps and hurdles ahead of us. And all six of our unique kids have individual trails ahead of them. We begin intertwined as a family, helping each other, encouraging, loving, believing in each other as we take each step forward.

Embudito Trail New Mexico

Embudito Trail New Mexico

Embudito Trail New Mexico

Aspens Embudito Trail New Mexico

Image

outside cold

It was around 37 degrees outside today, and the strong wind brought that down well below freezing. But I asked my sweet 6 year old if she’d like to go for a little run anyway. She often has such a great attitude. She feels things strongly, has a lot of empathy, and can start to feel overwhelmed by her concern or if she senses unfairness, but of all my kids, she was the one most likely to happily decide to brave the cold and take a trail hike/run.

We were refreshed.

_MG_2594

_MG_2596

_MG_2601