Two Mothers

I stare at the photo, breath caught in my lungs.

It’s my daughter in 20 years staring back at me.

Same beautiful eyes and wide smile.

Same long and lean body; so different from my own.

The light and laughter there makes me want to reach out and pull her from the photo.

I dream that night of meeting her.

We smile and reach out for each other; familiar despite having never met.

I wake up still feeling her slender back under my hands.

It is the little things that make me wince; that dig a well of grief in the middle of my joy at finding her.

The way she describes drinking olive juice from a jar and the look in my daughter’s eyes when I tell her, the only one in our family who eats olives.

The way she loves so many of the same things my daughters do.  Banana muffins, horses, music and nature.

The way she tenderly recounts sewing in little waistbands and what my children…or hers…or ours…were like as babies and toddlers.

I am unprepared for this grief.

This abrupt encounter with so much gain…and so much loss.

I am unsure how to hold my joy in my hands…while looking down and realizing it all came at her expense.

How do I justify all I have when I know the tables could have so easily been turned.

It is beautiful,

and shattering.

I look at them differently as they smile into my eyes,

seek out my affection,

come running to me with their latest drawings, stories and ideas.

I know as they bring me their caterpillars and create ant homes and worm habitats that she would be so much more delighted than I am right now.

I think of her finding a huge caterpillar in her garden, or her stories of helping turtles safely cross the road.

I wish she were here to enjoy their dirty faces grinning cheekily at me.

I tread unsteadily on the fence line of guilt and gratitude,

haunted by what she might do and say were she here.

All her words have been laden with grace and dignity and humility.

I have her permission to love without guilt, yet that in itself speaks a thousand words and almost makes it more difficult.

I feel like a heroine and a traitor.

I wonder at the world.

The world that separates mother and child,

that pulls unsuspecting teens into spirals of addiction and compromise with no warning of all they have to lose.

The world that offers so much pain and loss and heartache to one,

while another trips almost effortlessly through and lands in so much joy and blessing.

I reach out for more of her, knowing that as I learn her favourite colours, TV shows, hobbies, fears, regrets and joys…I am putting together the pieces of my children.

I scroll through her photos, feeling the weight of loss as I see family and friends that were meant to be part of my children’s lives…but aren’t.

It’s not that there’s a hole…it’s just that I know this was meant to be theirs.

We schedule chat sessions and eventually, our first meeting.

She’s even taller than I imagined and so graceful as she slides into the seat across from me, dressed in a pretty aqua top…my daughter’s favourite colour.

We stumble awkwardly yet enjoyably through a dinner conversation…most of which I cannot remember later for the butterflies in my stomach.

My husband bridges the gap between us…two mothers…and I’m grateful for his casual conversation.

I leave with anticlimactic memories and a picture of the two of us, arms slung around each other, smiling side by side.

I know it’ll be an important image for my daughters as they grow into this relationship…the picture of what was and what is simultaneously, tethering them to reality.

We fall into patterns of texting and chatting online, slowly letting in a new normal.

I casually laugh about a conversation we had, a photo she sent or a story she shared.

My daughters get used to it; their two mothers being acquaintances and then slowly…friends.

I love the way I think of her randomly, or can send off a text whenever I want.

I love the way I can share those special moments with her and know that she’ll care…because she’s a mother.

I love the way I can see more and more clearly the similarities between mother and daughters, and the shy adoration I see in their eyes when I notice them and comment.

I love the letters that get sent off in the mail with lovingly braided bracelets tucked inside.

I love the forging of our lives.

Loving my daughters’ birth mother is loving them.

They reflect so much of what I say and project about her onto themselves.

She is and always will be a part of them…and therefore a part of us.

I both love and hurt watching them reach out in fragile innocence for the affirmation she offers.

It is humbling to watch them flower beneath her tender care in ways that I can’t provide.

I see clearly the holes I cannot fill, and I’m grateful she is there and willing to fill those.

I imagine she feels the same, and once again this is one thing we share.

Two mothers.

I know so many people don’t have this story.

They don’t have this happy ending.

But I’m so grateful for this woman we call Mom.

Her integrity, humility, determination and beauty has added depth and colour to our adoption story that we never could have imagined.

Two mothers.

-AF

“A child born to another woman calls me mom.  The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.”

-Jody Landers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adoption vs. Birth

I went into adoption absolutely certain that I could and would love children born to another woman.

I was right.

I knew long before I met my girls that my love could run as deep, steady and strong for a child I chose through adoption as a child I gave birth to.

But there was also a lot I didn’t understand until I gave birth to my son.

Before we adopted I naively thought that love for my daughters would come instantly and feel deeply maternal.

I was wrong.

While I did fall instantly in love with my daughters, it was a very different kind of love than the love I felt when I gave birth to my son a  year and a half later.

It took day in, day out, month after month after long month of choosing to love my daughters before those feelings of natural, instinctive, maternal love came to me.

In theory I loved them fully and intimately, but realistically

we were strangers

and we needed to get to know each other.

I hadn’t spent nine months feeling the stirrings under my heart.  I hadn’t held them for those first breaths and watched each tiny movement.  I hadn’t witnessed the steady growth and development and learned what experiences formed in them their character and who they had become.

I have missed so much and I grieve that deeply.

When my son was born his innocence and purity took my breath away.  He was…and still is…so unscarred by this world.

My daughters never had that experience.  Even prenatally they struggled against circumstances beyond their control.

They fought for survival even before their first breaths.

I would give anything to give them the innocence my son got to experience, but I can’t and that is hard.

It is hard to look into my daughter’s eyes and see longing there as she says, “Mommy, I wish I grew in your tummy.”

Or to hold her shuddering little body as she cries tears of grief and loss for her birth mother…tears that she can’t even understand they are so complex and raw.

When my daughters came to me at 7 and 5 years old, they had personalities, character traits and a whole life that I knew very little about.

Sometimes that still gets in the way.

Sometimes I see fear, and I don’t know why it’s there.

Sometimes I see pain, and I don’t know what it’s about.

Sometimes there are vivid memories of people and places that I don’t know and I have no way of knowing if these memories are accurate and true or distorted by a child’s memory.

They’re looking to me for answers and I don’t know what to say.

Sometimes I see anger and resentment and I have no words to unravel the pain behind it all.

Sometimes I am the one battling the deep feelings of loss, of insecurity, of resentment and of exhaustion.

It is so tiring to constantly battle the layers upon layers of grief, fear, loss and trauma written on the hearts of children who have seen and heard and felt the unimaginable.

There is always always an unknown factor to consider.

Just because I chose this doesn’t mean it’s easy.

It’s not always fun.

Hurt makes people hurt.

Fear makes people push away.

Betrayal makes hearts break and the healing is slow and painful.

Sometimes I just want a normal family.

Yes, it’s true and I said that out loud.

Sometimes the guilt of that tears me apart.

But so many other times I see love, and I feel honoured to be their mother.

I see happiness and it overwhelms me with joy.

I see healing and it makes me fall to my knees in worship to the One who can bring redemption out of so much pain.

So many people see all the hurt and pain that often goes along with adoption and they decide they could never do it.

Too many risks.

And it’s true…after having experienced both adoption and natural birth, I will atest to the fact that giving birth is probably easier.

It’s the natural way to receive a child, the way our Creator first designed for families to be born.

It’s beautiful.

But what about when the original design falls apart?

What about when pain and destruction and sin enter in?

Ripping, tearing, breaking;

leaving wounds upon both the innocent and the guilty?

Then what?

Is there any hope of redemption?

Yes!

A thousand times yes!

I cannot begin to pour enough passion into these words.

To let you see,

to let you feel

the incredible grace

that our Father pours upon those who choose to engage the pain.

How he takes the ashes and creates beauty from them.

How he takes the broken and uses the scars to proclaim His glory.

How he bathes us in grace upon grace.

How he heals and transforms and gifts.

How we see the gospel through this thing we call adoption.

It is probably true that nothing quite prepares you to face the pain of this.

But it is absolutely true that nothing will prepare you for the rewards you will experience and the victories you will be a part of.

Nothing will prepare you for the small things that will bring you joy,

the grace you will receive

and maybe most of all the love that will grow strong in your heart for these children you’ve chosen as yours.

Yes, yours.

It will become their identity.

Your children.

It’s my favourite thing to say.

My daughters.

One of my favourite narratives in scripture is the account told in Hosea of God lavishly loving upon the people who had turned their backs on him.

Hosea 2:23 says,

“I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”

When I read these words, there is something that resounds within my heart.

I will say to those who were once not my own

“You are mine!”

I will choose, despite all odds, to

lavishly love

upon these people who were once strangers to me.

And in it all, the unthinkable will occur…

we will become one.

A family.

A home.

A testimony of grace and redemption.

So even though adoption can be hard and messy and complicated

it is so worth it and in it’s own way

it is so beautiful.

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

AF

Foster Care

It’s official.

We are back on the “call” list for our local foster care agency.

Any day now we could have another little person walk through our doors and stay for a night, a week, a month, a year…or forever.

We did not predict that we would be ready this quickly.  Less than two years after our daughters’ placement in our home and just over 3 months after our son’s birth, we are jumping back in.

I can see the raised eye brows,

the widening eyes.

I can hear all the questions you are asking.  I’ve asked them too.

I can hear you saying that we have no idea what we’re getting into; that we are putting our children’s lives in jeopardy; that we should draw our limits.

But there’s something you need to know.

We don’t get to choose.

When we dedicated our lives, our home and our family to Jesus Christ, we surrendered the right to choose how, when and what we do as well as the right to follow whatever our feelings dictate.

God has made it very clear to us in the past month that it is time.

It’s time to jump back in.

It’s time to serve.

It’s time to love.

It’s time to once again offer our home and our family as His hands and feet.

And even though it doesn’t make sense; even though we have every reason to say no, I trust Him.

My girls are ecstatic.  Naive, but ecstatic all the same.

They know what it is like to be in foster care.

To feel alone, unwanted, unloved and frightened by life itself.  So their hearts are jumping at the chance to show another child what family can be.

In our home we don’t just play “house” or “dolls”, we play “foster care”, “adoption” and a pretend life that is shadowed with the tragedies most children aren’t yet aware of.  Our dolls have been hurt and abandoned.  Our play phones ring with calls at 2 am from social workers.  Our precious little babies leave us at a moment’s notice and return to biological parents.  They’ve suffered head injuries, malnutrition, long hospitalizations, broken limbs and bruises.  They cry and throw tantrums.

This is our reality.  We’ve been there.  As the kids in care and as the foster parents loving them.

This time around I have battled a lot of intense emotions and fears that I didn’t experience the first time we entered foster care.  Three and a half years ago when we started fostering I was so excited, so confidant and so ready.  This time?  Well, I’m still filled with all those feelings, because God’s been nudging my heart for a while now and preparing me for this.  But I’m also incredibly overwhelmed, exhausted and fearful heading into this new season of our lives, because this time there is so much more at stake.  It feels like there is so much more to lose.

I am keenly and painfully aware that I am throwing my three children into chaos.  Painful, challenging, heartbreaking chaos.

Foster care is no walk in the park.

It’s hard.

It hurts.

It’s intense.

It’s unpredictable.

It takes a lot of time and effort.

The truth is, I don’t want them to have to give up the secure, predictable environment we’ve worked so hard to create in our home for them.  I don’t want them to have to share their clothes, their games, their stuffies, their rooms, their parents and their home.  I hate that this might mean I have less time, less energy and less patience for them.  I don’t like the idea of putting extra strain on our marriage.

I’m afraid I will crash and burn physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I’m afraid I will not be able to be the Mommy, the wife, the home schooling mom or the foster mom that I want to be.

I’m afraid my daughter’s education will suffer.

I’m afraid we will fall back into old patterns and habits that go along with insecurity and change in this home.

I’m afraid I will not get to enjoy my beautiful baby boy the way I want to.

 I’m afraid I will not possibly be able to love another as much as I love these three.

 I’m afraid I will fail.

Miserably.

I am so aware of my own short comings and my own limitations.  In the eyes of the world and all it’s logic we are not prepared!

Yet God says,

“Go.”

While I stumble through the questions and fears in my heart and mind I hear Him say:

“Have you forgotten so quickly who sustains you?

Have you forgotten how small you are?

Are these three precious little people I’ve placed in your home and your life more important than all the rest I have made?

Have you forgotten they all belong to me?

In your weakness, I can best show My strength and glory.

It is not out of confidence, ability, power or strength that you serve.

It is out of gratitude.

Humble gratitude for all I have done for you.”

So what can I say?

To the One who intricately formed each of my children, as well as the child who will walk through our doors next.  To the One who loves them each the same with His everlasting, unbreakable love.

To the One who can give me strength and energy for each long day and night.

To the One who is waiting to pour His love into the gaps my own heart cannot fill.

To the One who has given us everything we have and blessed us with abundantly more than we could ever need or want.

All I can possibly say is YES.

I will go.

I will serve.

I will love.

I have no promises that this will be easy or that we will not have to sacrifice anything dear to us.  In fact, I am quite confidant that it will most definitely be very challenging and that we will have to sacrifice some things that are very dear to us.  But I also know that if He is calling me, He will provide enough for each day and that I would rather live in the center of His will than in my own carefully crafted security bubble.

So are we ready?

No.

We are not ready…and yet…we are more ready than we’ve ever been.

We understand things we never did before.

We have more love to offer in the shape of two young hearts who have gone through their own journeys.  They are so eager to love, and I am humbled by that and reminded what exactly my job as their Mom is.

My job is not to shield them from all hurt…though I wish so much I could.

It is not to give them everything they want, but to have the wisdom to see what they really need and realize that sometimes this includes hardship; hardship that produces character and spiritual maturity.

It is not to make them the center of our home and world, but to point them to Jesus, the One who needs to be the final Voice in all our decisions as a family and the center of our home and our lives.

It is not to teach them to weigh pros and cons, as if life is all just a big game where we are all looking out for ourselves alone…but to teach them that we are here to serve those around us.

“But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”                Matthew 25:34-36

“And whatsoever you have done to least of these my brethren you have done unto me.”  Matthew 25:40

“”And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”  Matthew 10:42

“In humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phillipians 2:3-4

 

 

 

 

We Are Home Schooling!

Yes, you read that right.

Me and my littlest A are homeschooling!  It’s been 2 weeks and maybe we are just honeymooning but it has been AWESOME!   I love it!

Now I can just about see some of you rolling your eyes, making that skeptical face and going…yeah whatever.

I get it.

I never wanted to home school, either.

In fact, until I read through my daughters’ adoption files I always said that I would never do it because I would have hated it as a child, myself!  I thought that home schooling was for really large families who like to hide away from the world or display their family on TV shows!  I thought children who were home schooled were all really smart, a little socially impaired and just not normal!  As you can see, I really hadn’t spent much time thinking about it or taking a look at people who actually did home school!  These were just my misguided perceptions, which I am thoroughly embarrassed of now.

But when special needs walks into the picture, everything changes.  Suddenly I could see that even though I loved school and it would have made me miserable to be at home, for some children it may be the exact opposite!

For some kids, school causes so much stress that they spend all their time just trying to cope!  This may be a result of trauma, attachment issues, learning disabilities or any number of other special needs.

There are tons of supports available, but you have to fight for them and it’ll take time.  I certainly don’t recommend that every parent experiencing difficulties with their child at school should just pull them out without exploring their options, but sometimes all the support and time in the world won’t meet the real needs of your child.   This is especially true in adoption.

For months, I had been saying…we’ll just give it some more time.  Or, I’m not ready yet so that’s just where she needs to be.

In truth I wasn’t confidant enough that I was ready to commit to this journey or that it was the right path for my daughter.  For some reason I was really afraid that I would pull her out of school and then fall flat on my face!  I was afraid she wouldn’t learn, that it would all be a mess and that we would all hate it!

But somehow God has a way of making things clear and as things got worse at school my mind lingered more and more on the idea of home schooling.  Part of me fought it…simply because I love school!  I love the specific school my daughters were attending, and where my oldest daughter still is.  I love the community.  I love the staff.  I love the atmosphere and all the kids.  I love the special projects and events that are connected to school.  I love the opportunities school brings to experience life alongside others and to have a broader view of the world.  I just love it.  I am a teacher, after all.

However, God began to speak to my heart and show me that my daughter needed something different.  My husband and I had always promised that we would make decisions about our children’s education according to what was best for each child, one year at a time.  We could no longer claim that we were doing that, and that bothered me!  Even worse, I was scared and discouraged as I watched my daughter start to fall back into behaviors and patterns that we hadn’t seen in a long time!  I felt like we were losing ground instead of gaining, and I missed my happy little girl.  Though we had a great team at school and communicated regularly, I realized that my daughter didn’t need a teacher.  She needed her Mommy.  She needed me.

So in some ways I chose to home school out of desperation and because school was not working…but even more I chose to home school because I realized that I wanted to!

I missed the first four and a half years of my daughter’s life.  I want to spend more time with her!  I want to be there all day, every day, even though it truly does drive me crazy sometimes!  I want to know every little thing that happened in her day, and to be the constant that she comes back to.   I want to be the one who laughs with her, gets frustrated with her, explores the world with her and watches her learn and grow.  Because even after 18 months together, I’m still getting to know her.  I’m still trying to figure out who she is and how she thinks.  I’m still learning her challenges, her strengths and her learning styles.  I am still figuring out her love language and her sense of humor.  I am still proving to her little heart that I am her Mommy and I will always love her; that even though others have come and gone I am here to stay.  There is nothing that can replace TIME.

So, here goes nothing!

The next half year is a bit of an experiment, but I am so excited.  I am excited to be able to focus on the things my little girl is good at, and remove some of the things she is not yet ready to handle.  I am excited to use the teaching skills I have to figure out how she learns and to make learning fun for her.  Choosing to home school a special needs child is completely different than choosing to home school a child who is gifted or even just average.  For the special needs child, you need to lay aside curriculum expectations, most typical teaching styles and any methods that conflict with your child’s exceptionalities.  I have to fight against the temptation to follow a book, accomplish too much in one day or copy other’s home school structures.  Home schooling is all about finding what works for your child and your family.  Once you embrace that, there is immense freedom!  It is wide open from there!  You get to decide what you study, how much, how long, where and when.  You get to decide everything.  This can feel scary, but chances are if you set out on this venture your gut will let you know the answers to these questions.

 So far, it has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

I have my little girl back.

I’m seeing peace where I saw frustration and agitation.  I’m seeing happiness where I saw a constant edginess.  I’m seeing success where I saw failure academically.  I’m seeing gentleness where I saw anger.  I’m seeing a glowing pride in her bright blue eyes where I saw confusion.

It’s not all perfect, and I’m still figuring out how we’re going to handle all this.  I don’t know how long we’ll be doing this, but for right now it’s the right thing.  I am sure of that.

I was given some great advice from another home schooling mom.

Pray.

Pray over everything you do.  Pray over the math, the spelling, the reading books and the colouring.  Pray for wisdom, pray for patience, pray for grace and perseverence.  Pray for courage and a sense of humor.  Pray for yourself, your child, your husband and your other children.  Pray blessings over your child and their school work.  Pray blessings over your home and family.

Know that this work you have chosen to do…been called to do…is valuable and important in the eyes of God.  At the end of the day, you are Kingdom building, not just teaching ABC’s.

This is the perspective I want to embrace as we dive into this new venture.  I want to teach my daughter out of a sense of gratitude, and hand all the work of our hands over to the One who can make it beautiful and valuable.

 

 

Family of 5

So…in the space of a week my husband and I officially, legally became the parents of 3 children!

First, our 2 gorgeous daughters, whose adoption was finalized on October 16, 2015.

Second, the birth of our son on October 22, 2015.

And then we were a family of 5.

And they lived happily ever after!

Right?

Oh, except for…

crazy hormones,

sleepless nights…which turn into harried mornings where we miss the bus,

attachment issues revisited,

the barrage of colds and flus on stressed out bodies,

the physical recovery after being stretched to 10 cm (have you looked at that on a ruler!?  10 cm!!)

The impossible balance of learning how to divide your time between 3 little people and realizing that means you’re never, ever alone!

The never ending “Can I hold Karter?”…which turns into a competition of

“Is it my turn yet?”

“I think he wants me.”

“Mommy, she won’t give me a turn!”

“Don’t pull his arms!”

“Stop!”

and the inevitable cry of a baby.

Lest you all jump to the conclusion after my last two posts that we are living in some sort of sparkle land filled with rainbows and unicorns I thought I better fill you in on the realities of life around here.

Let me clarify.

We are incredibly blessed and over the moon in love with our little man, but the arrival of a new little person in a home invariably means adjustments for all involved and we are no different.

Throw adoption in the mix and some of you will understand very well what I mean when I say that a new baby triggers all kinds of emotions, memories and insecurities that make their appearance in all kinds of erratic behaviour!  (Aka: a little bird chirping in its nest…really?!?!  Sigh.  Don’t even ask.)  Despite one’s deepest determination to be sensitive and kind and gentle and patient…the notes home, phone calls from school, jealousy, defiance…it all gets old really fast even when you know your child is struggling with feelings of insecurity.  It’s so much easier to say that you’re going to pick your battles and leave the ones that don’t matter.  So much easier.  I’d like to say I’ve responded perfectly every time in the last month, but that would be lying.  I’m never a perfect parent and lack of sleep apparently doesn’t make it easier!

And then there’s the hormones.

They’re actually real!

I really never thought I’d be that Mom that was flooded with all kinds of thoughts and emotions that to anyone else seem completely irrational!

Leaving the hospital I totally had “that” moment.  The one where I froze inside and went, “They’re actually letting me take him home?!”  Which was followed by the intense desire to run back the other way and keep my newborn safe inside the hospital walls.

I had to force myself to let other people hold him the first few days and I could hardly bear to watch him lying somewhere not being held even if he was perfectly peaceful and content.

I didn’t turn off the lamp in the nursery at night for at least a week…just because it felt so dark!

Karter slept in his crib instead of his bassinet for the very first time last night.  One month old.  The difference being only that the bassinet is small and cozy and the crib is just so, so big!

I’ve cried.  A lot.

I’ve been irritable and easily overwhelmed.

I’ve called my sister at 5 o’clock in the afternoon in tears with the words, “I’m a terrible Mom!” and “I am so tired!”

And the crazy thing?

I’ve had such an easy baby!   All this with the sweetest little angel on the planet.  He is so chill and just such a happy, content little guy.

But you know what?

It’s still an adjustment.  It’s still a huge life change.  You’re still inevitably going to go through that moment where you panic mentally and go, “What have I done?!  Can I handle this?!”

But I knew that was coming.  I’ve experienced that moment of panic every single time a new child has entered our home.  And it’s perfectly ok.

What’s made a huge difference is something a friend of mine told me…no, showed me.

With her third child she made a conscious decision while she was pregnant that no matter what, she was going to enjoy this baby!  She was going to hold him as much as possible.  She was not going to complain about the sleepless nights and the aching breasts and the dirty diapers.  She was going to choose to see this tiny human being as God sees him…a wonderfully, beautifully crafted gift meant to be treasured.

I watched her love her little boy so beautifully over the next year, and I saw Jesus in her.

That made a huge impression on me, and I knew I wanted to do that…to feel that.

I wanted to be the Mommy who sees my children as blessings.

To see every moment as one of a kind; a gift I get to enjoy.

So I’ve been trying really hard.

When it’s 2:15 am and I’m bleary eyed in the rocking chair, I’m trying to remember to look down at that little boy and trace the lines of his face.

When I hear his cry while I’m busy I am trying to remember that he is so much more important than anything else I could be doing.

When he poops all over the clean diaper I am just about to put on, the change table, the floor, the door, my hands…I am trying to grin and just shake my head that he got me…again!

When I can hardly see over the car seat perched on my shopping cart I am trying to take the time to notice the joy in the eyes of the old woman who stops to peek at my precious cargo.

I am trying.

To see my children as Jesus saw the ones He scooped up in His arms and loved.

To love my children and offer them grace even when they don’t comply with my schedule or my plans.

To remember that my daughters are still healing, still growing, still learning my love is limitless.

To face the realities of children damaged by trauma and prenatal alcohol exposure with courage and unwavering optimism even when the trenches feel dark.

I am trying to say yes more than no; to ask “Does it really matter?”

To draw her body close for a cuddle even though my personal bubble is screaming not to be touched!

To cheerfully repeat instructions the third, fourth, fifth, tenth time.

And most of all I am trying to count my blessings every day.

I am so incredibly blessed.

That is the one thing I want to sing to the world.  I want everyone that sees me to see in my eyes that these little people are valued.  That their lives are cherished and nurtured.  That I believe they were created in the image of God.

Yes, God.

He has been so good to me.

So are we blissfully revelling in a happily ever after wonderland?

No.

But we are very blessed and honestly…

I wouldn’t trade any of it.

It’s mine, and I’m blessed to own each and every little flaw of our life’s canvas.

We’re real, we’re scarred and we’re a little cranky some days.

Still a masterpiece in the making!

AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adoption Day & Celebration

Finally, finally…after months and months of waiting…

it happened!

We are officially, legally a family.

I’d like to introduce you to my daughters,

Akeisha Sofie Grace Freeman

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                                                                     &

Alexa Anna Joy Freeman

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Could they possibly be any more beautiful? 🙂

On Oct. 16, 2015 we had our day in court and received the official documents needed to finalize our adoption of Akeisha & Alexa.  It was a rather boring, anticlimactic ceremony that took a grand total of about 10 min to perform, but it was a satisfying, victorious day for the 4 of us nonetheless!  The court presented the girls each with their own stuffed dog as a congratulatory gift and we all went to DQ afterwards with the family and friends who joined us to celebrate with ice cream.

My sister in law gave us a thoughtful gift of helium balloons, note paper and tape so we could write our happy news and send it to the skies for someone somewhere to find 🙂  It was a fun, sweet way to mark our day.

Our big celebration took place 2 weeks prior to our official day in court.  We were running out of time to plan a big party before the arrival of our baby so we decided court date or not we were going to celebrate the fact that we were a forever family!

So…we threw a party!  I couldn’t possibly have pulled off something like this on my own, but with the help of some incredible friends we were able to celebrate with close to 100 people who have been important in the lives of our daughters and us in the past year and a half.  It was an amazing evening and one that we will look back on with joy and gratitude for a very long time.  It was so special to have the people closest to us all together in one place and be able to thank them for walking this journey with us and loving us!

My husband and I really wanted to do a ceremony where we could publicly acknowledge the fact that we had chosen to bring our daughters into our family and love them, care for them and provide for them no matter what.  We wanted Akeisha & Alexa to know that just like our marriage, this was a vow we were making to them for better or for worse, no matter the cost and that we were serious about it.  We wanted them to have a moment to look back on to physically mark the beginning of our family, to solidify in their minds that this was different than every other home they’ve been in before.  Why?  Because this is permanent!

These were our vows to our daughters:

Akeisha Sofie Grace Freeman

We are so proud of the beautiful girl you are growing up to be. We are so blessed to have you as our daughter, and we want you to know that we will always be your mom and dad. We will never leave you.

We promise to take care of you and make you feel safe.

We promise to love you, no matter where you go or what you do.

We promise to make Jesus Christ the centre of our home and to show you what He is like by our actions and words.

We promise to pray for you and ask for God’s help to be the best parents we can be.

We promise to have grace for the times you will fail and to celebrate your achievements with you.

We promise to be patient with you as you learn, listen to you and to be gentle with your heart.

We love you so much!

From now on we will always be a family, no matter what.

Alexa Anna Joy Freeman

We are so blessed to have you as our daughter. You bring so much fun and laughter to our family and we want you to know that we will always be your Mommy & Daddy. We will never leave you.

We promise to keep you safe.

We promise to take care of you the best that we can and to give you the things that you need.

We promise to love you forever, no matter where you go or what you do.

We promise to make Jesus Christ the centre of our home and to show you what He is like by our actions and words.

We promise to pray for you and ask for God’s help to be the best Mom & Dad we can be.

We promise to be patient as you learn, forgive you when you make bad decisions and to laugh with you lots.

We love you so much.

From now on we will always be a family, no matter what!

It was a beautiful moment to be able to look into my daughters’ eyes and promise them all we had to offer.

I cannot change the past, but I can offer hope for the future and the promise that they will never be alone.

At the ceremony a friend of ours beautifully described the link between our adoption into Christ’s family and the adoption of our two daughters.  We also sang the song “Cornerstone.”  Standing beside my husband with my daughters at my side and our baby stirring inside my womb my heart was incredibly full singing these words.  With Christ as our cornerstone I know our family’s foundation is strong enough to withhold the changing seasons, no matter how difficult.

“Cornerstone”

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

When Darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all
He is Lord
Lord of all

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless stand before the throne.

AF

 

 

I Am Loved

I look up and there she is.

Positioned just like me on the couch, at my side with pen in hand, pretending to do Sudoku like Mommy as she makes little markings and scribblings in her Activity Book.

She wants to be just like me.

I am so blessed.

I look up and there she is.

Smiling at me with those sparkling brown eyes…no filter, no block.  I’m looking straight into her soul and she trusts me implicitly with all that is there.

I am her everything.

I am so blessed.

I fall down exhausted and disgruntled at the end of a long, hot day.  I close my eyes and soon I hear footsteps pattering toward my place on the couch.  I sigh inwardly, wishing for a moment alone and expecting her constant chatter to start any minute.  Instead I feel gentle hands caress my hair and rub my back…soothing, loving, tender little motions.  A soft kiss lands on my cheek and a blanket falls gently on my shoulders.  I smile and stay very still.

She adores me.

I am so blessed.

I open my eyes after a nap and see two little girl bodies huddled at my kitchen sink before my pile of dirty dishes.  I had left them there to do later.  The dishwasher was full and it was too hot to stand with my hands in hot, soapy water.  But there they are and I hear;

“We should do these dishes for Mommy ’cause she’s really tired and she had a rough day!”

“She did?”

“Well yeah, it was really hot and I usually get frustrated when it’s so hot so she probably does too!”

“Oh!  Okay.”

And there they are; scrubbing, brushing, rinsing and drying.  One too small to reach the sink so she stands on a stool by her big sister’s side.

They are loving me with every stroke of that brush.

I am so blessed.

I roll over in bed at the sound of the door as he creeps in to kiss me goodbye.  There’s a glass of chocolate milk in his hands.  He smiles at me and my heart fills up in an instant.  I savor his kiss, his unshaven face against mine, the firm muscles of his back under my hands and the chocolate milk, filling my stomach so I won’t be nauseous later.

I am the love of his life.

He’d do anything for me.

I am so blessed.

Every time I am caught in these moments I feel so incredibly humbled.  I am far from the perfect…or even ideal wife or mother.  I fail miserably on a daily basis.  They hear my sharp tones, they see my angry eyes, they feel my rough hands pushing them away.  They watch me choose myself over them so many times.

Yet they love me so unconditionally and forgive me so completely, even when I am so undeserving.

In their eyes, their touch, their voices of love I see glimpses of my Heavenly Father.

A love that covers a multitude of wrongdoings and places them as far as the east is from the west.

A grace that washes me clean and keeps no record of my wrongs.

They offer me hope for my humanity.

Thank you for loving me.

I love you more than life itself.

XOXO

AF

Attachment 101 – Part 3

In my last two posts in this series I introduced the attachment theory and explained how that affects children who have been adopted.  We discussed how to step into your child’s life and take control of their world confidently so that they can attach to you and trust you as their new caregiver.  I explained that children who have experienced trauma in their lives need a lifestyle that is highly structured and highly nurtured.  Taking control and developing boundaries focuses on the need for structure, so today I want to focus on nurturing.

When most people think about adoption, nurture is the picture that fills their mind.  They imagine holding their child, hugging and kissing their child, laughing, playing together and smiling.  They think about all the things they will do together, the sweet little rituals they’ll establish at bedtime and the millions of ways they will try to help their child forget all the grief, fear and loss of their past.

Before your child comes home, you will not be able to truly imagine that reality will set in.  You will not be able to prepare for those days when all you want is to be left alone.  You will not be able to comprehend the strength it will take some days just to reach out and give those hugs, kisses or gentle pats.

The bottom line is that no family is happy all the time, and children working through difficult feelings rarely display those emotions in cute, loveable ways.  It is not easy to be gentle and kind in the face of defiance.  It is not easy to stay energetic and positive when your children are testing every limit they find.  It is not easy to create a peaceful atmosphere with a screaming child.  You will get tired of being followed all over the place.  You will grow weary of a child’s tears, missing the loved one you can never be.  You will crave just one night of solid sleep.  Then you will feel incredible guilt as you think about all they’ve been through.

You will be a parent, not a revered saviour.

Realizing this is a bit of a let down; we all love to feel like heroes.  But it’s also exciting when you realize you have really become a normal family, complete with all the stresses and chaos.

Nurturing consists of those tangible ways we express to a child that he is adored, important and irreplaceable.  It’s caring, warm gestures that go above and beyond, but include, basic survival needs.  Nurturing is essential for attachment.

Children who have grown up in dysfunctional, chaotic environments are often starved for nurture.  However, they will not always respond the way you’d think.  It can be more difficult than imagined to nurture your child.

Touch is one of the most obvious and powerful communicators of love, and obviously important when nurturing your child.  Hugs, kisses, back rubs, holding hands, wrestling and piggy back rides are all great ways to connect with your child physically.  For those children whose love language is physical touch this will be even more important.  In some types of attachment therapy “holding” is considered it’s own exercise.  Some children will take awhile to feel comfortable enough to relax in your arms or ask for hugs or kisses.  Others will be all over you within hours or days.  It may be more uncomfortable than you think having that child who wants to touch you all the time.  Many children struggle to figure out appropriate social boundaries.  They may hug and hold hands with any adult they meet.  They may want to touch your face or body in ways that would be totally appropriate for a baby or toddler but not quite as cute in an older child.  It can be hard to offer hugs and kisses without limit, retain enough boundaries to keep yourself from feeling claustrophobic and teach your child appropriate social boundaries.  It is especially difficult with a child who has been sexualized by adults in their life.  Beware of any sort of touching that the child is uncomfortable with and follow their lead.  If you see signs of provocative or overly sexualized behaviours, be sure to clearly direct your child away from those behaviours.  The goal is to nurture your child, not to lure them back into unhealthy habits.

I remember the first day I met my daughters.  At 7 and 5, they were anxious little whirlwinds of activity.  I wanted so much to be able to just reach out and hold them…but I was a stranger.  While one of them soon snuggled in close under my arm, the other one circled me warily, staying just out of reach.  Now she falls asleep in my arms, but then she needed me to follow her from room to room, looking at everything she pointed out and then letting her retreat again for a while.  The most I got was to let my fingers slide over her silky hair for a second.  My husband, however, won her over by offering piggy back rides 🙂

Food is another basic way to nurture a child.  We all need food and water to survive, but some children have not always had plenty of food or water.  They may remember times when their tummies ached with hunger, or they may cope with anxiety by grossly overeating.  Be sensitive to this and try to make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to give them that physical satisfaction food brings, while establishing healthy eating patterns.  Simply doing the little things like getting a drink of water for them, pulling something from the fridge, scooping food onto their plate or packing a plentiful and appealing lunch can help children feel nurtured and cared for.  For children who hoard or steal food, packing a special snack basket or stocking a cupboard just for them helps reinforce the message that food is readily available when needed.  This helps them realize they are not in danger of being without enough food as they’ve been in the past.  For children who may have missed early infant nurturing, spoon feeding or even bottle feeding is a bonding activity that will reinforce tons of positive messages.

Like many little children, my littlest A loves to snack!  She adores junk food and candy and begs for food anytime she’s bored or slightly hungry.  While this is very frustrating, I’ve tried to turn it around by getting ahead of her and surprising her.  When she’s busy with something else I’ll suddenly interrupt her and tell her it’s snack time!  She’s always delighted to realize she didn’t even need to ask and it’s way more fun for me!  I also like to let the girls lick off spatula’s, have a few chocolate chips when I’m baking cookies or pick out a special snack to go in their lunch at the store.  My grocery bill has definitely went up since I started packing creative, healthy and appealing lunches but it’s a way to send my nurturing along to school with them.

Even though your child may be an independent 8, 10 or even 16 year old doesn’t mean you should never do anything for them they can do themselves.  While promoting attachment you are not focusing on independence.  We all love to be treated with care.  Go out of your way to care for your child.  Pack their lunch, start the bath water for them, help a younger child dress, brush their hair, trim their nails, put their pajamas in the dryer to warm them up while they’re in the bath tub.

Simply having fun and spending time together is a big part of nurturing your child.  Laugh.  Smile.  Snuggle on the couch and watch a movie.  Make eye contact and pay attention when your child is speaking to you.  Make yourself and your home a “safe haven” your child can come back to no matter how he or she is feeling!  Reinforce the message that we all have feelings and they are not wrong in and of themselves, it is what we do with them that matters.

Most of us know how to nurture, it’s just difficult to do it when we’re feeling tired, worn out or frustrated.

Last week I had a bad week.  One of my daughters was sick and I was just not in the mood!  She is a detail person and struggles with anxiety in the best of times, so feeling a little off turned her into a real bear!  The tiny bump on her lip and the fever she developed had equal significance, along with a possibly occurring rash and itchy spot on her left leg!  She woke up multiple nights in a row and knocked on my door in tears, panicking at the thought of not sleeping which then of course kept her from sleeping for long afterwards.  She was defiant and mean at school, tired and grumpy at home.  I am telling you this to show you that even though I know all about nurturing in my head, I fail miserably on a regular basis!  Last week I had the perfect opportunity to show my daughter that I cared about her and would go out of my way to nurse her poor tired little body.  Instead, I was grumpy, irritable and insensitive.  I knew I was failing miserably and instead of choosing to let this motivate me I let my mind take me on a huge guilt trip instead.  After everything this little girl has been through, how could you treat her with such a lack of compassion?!  What a horrible mother!

See, just because my daughters have not been born to me by birth and have trauma in their past does not mean I always find it easy to be gentle and kind.  I am no superhero!

So I hope all you moms out there are encouraged to nurture your little, middle sized or big kids today.  Go the extra mile to make them feel important.  Remember the golden rule.  Take every opportunity to love.  They’re worth it!

Backyard Adventures

So I wish I could post some more photos for you of some of this stuff but until our adoption is finalized I can’t legally do that.  So…you’ll just have to be satisfied with my descriptions 🙂

I love to see kids using their imaginations and playing outdoors.  It is so healthy for all of us and it’s the sort of activity they don’t get to enjoy as much during the school year.  Recently I feel like the girls have really found their groove with the long summer days and are coming up with all kinds of things to do!

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, my husband has been working on building a tree house the past week.  He was actually pretty stoked about this since he’s always wanted a good reason to build a tree house apparently!  🙂  The girls were so excited about this and loved helping him.  I cringed as they wielded hammers, winced as they helped him saw and covered my eyes when it was finally complete enough for them to clamber up there…WAY up there!  Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea…but spending the last few years providing daycare for other people’s kids and being a foster parent for the Children’s Aid Society has sharpened my ‘safety first’ instincts!  I tried not to let my nervous squeaks ruin their excitement and pushed away the jelly feeling in my stomach when I climbed up with them the first time.  Is it safe?  Barely.  But is it fun?  You bet it is!  This is why Akeisha and Alexa need a Daddy.  I encourage and applaud them when they are adventurous and brave…but I’m not as good at providing opportunities for them to practise those characteristics.

It really has been tons of fun, though, this tree house thing.  It can become a pirate ship, a secret clubhouse or a cool place to have lunch!  Yes, that was today.  Tuna sandwiches, carrots and apples are so much better when devoured with grimy little fingers as we gaze around at green, leafy walls.  Even the chipmunks, who have been feasting on peanuts right out of our hands, managed to crawl up there and try to steal a few crumbs!  It makes me feel like a child again…climbing trees, brushing the dirt off my sandwich, feeling rough wood on my feet and going out of the way to make each little moment extraordinary.  There’s even a trap door, which makes you feel like you’re entering a secret hideaway!  Akeisha tied a rope to a bucket so that they could transport all kinds of treasures up and down.  She also tried ‘fishing’ for chipmunks from her leafy hideaway which resulted in one clever little chipmunk getting quite the surprise when his peanut wouldn’t come free!

 

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There is also still a little fort in the bushes that gets some attention, a bear trap that was created ‘just in case’ and a new favourite hobby…picking apples from the wild apple trees beside our house!  Every now and then we still catch caterpillars and put them in our bug buckets…though they rarely get attention after that so they have a rather unfortunate end.  Akeisha is usually the ring leader of all these activities and the past few days working alongside Daddy she became enthralled with the idea of ‘working.’  So yesterday all day I was her boss and she drove to work in her workboat, just like Daddy.  She was so cute all dressed up in Daddy’s big work boots, a Rockscape Design hat and a big sweater that covered most of her body.  She took lunch breaks and even did a bunch of jobs for me as my ’employee.’  Hey, if she’s into working and having fun I’ve got all kinds of jobs that can be done! 🙂  After making the beds, doing dishes and sweeping the floor she was ready to go back to pretending to work like Daddy, not me!  Lol.

Our poor little doll babies who got such devoted attention a month ago have been rather neglected, but every now and then they still get a few cuddles, a walk to the park or a diaper change.  Crafts have been a big hobby lately and this mother has had to grin and bear all the glue, string, little paper pieces and wasted tape that goes with that!  Most of the crafts have been things for the fort or tree house.

I am so grateful for the little haven we have here up at the top of a quiet dead end street.  We have a perfect backyard for kids to be able to explore, play and create despite it’s small size.

So much to be thankful for.

Alongside all these backyard adventures I am just celebrating every little sign of attachment I see in our daughters.  Today Alexa, mimicking the words I’ve said to her so many times, told her doll “I’ll love you always and for ever NO MATTER WHAT!”  She also played shy and stuck right by my side the whole time a woman selling books dropped by this morning, which is a great improvement.  The last phone conversations we had with the girls foster parents were remarkably different than a few weeks ago.  Instead of the girls needing to know all about their former homes and what they were missing, they were able to excitedly share about the fun things that have been going on here!  We are hearing mostly Mommy and Daddy again, after a few weeks of reverting back to our names, and they are even able to have conversations about their new last names without feeling quite so threatened.  Alexa has a habit of coming up to me any random time and saying, “Mommy, I love you.”  No reason at all.  No particular emotion to provoke it.  Simply I love you 🙂  She loves when I call her my baby.  A favourite bonding activity is to be wrapped in a big towel after her bath and carried back to her room.

Daddy still gets greeted with huge shrieks of joy each and every evening…and he deserves every ounce of adoration the girls give him.  He’s amazing.  Day after day he comes home from work and pours a truckload of energy into the girls.  Alexa loves her snuggles from Daddy, climbing into his lap after supper just like I used to do with my Dad every night.  My favourite quote of hers was one Saturday morning as she crawled into bed to snuggle beside him.  “You’re my warm and fuzzy Daddy,” she said as she rubbed his whiskers affectionately. 🙂  She has been a Daddy’s girl since day #1 and there is just a bond there that I love to watch.

Akeisha likes to get quality time and attention, like helping him build the tree house or sitting on his lap chatting.  She got to stay up late a few nights just chatting with Daddy and it was so eye opening to hear her questions and comments.  They talked about everything from house fires to school to her day.  She was amazed to hear that Daddy would come back in the fire to find her if he knew she was still inside, and once again I was reminded how much we need to voice those things.  When trust is just being built, those things are not simply taken for granted as obvious facts like they were for me when I was a child.  They love to hear us say adamantly how much we would miss them if they left us and how we would follow them!  They’ve decided once they’re big enough to be moms themselves they will live next door to us in the house that is for sale so that they will not be far away, and talk about saving up their money for that.  🙂  Right now I am listening to them play house.  Akeisha is the mom and Alexa is the child.  Alexa has just been put on a ‘time-out’ by her sister and Akeisha is carefully explaining why exactly she is there and what will happen.  Wow.  Sponges.  It is incredible to hear your voice being parroted back at you.  The other day Akeisha said to me, “Mommy, I wish I would have been in your tummy.”  We’ve had this conversation a few times.  When I smiled, hugged her and said “Me too,” I could see her beautiful brown eyes glow.  We have so much yet to cover about the life they’ve already lived without us, but in those little moments we understand who we are.  We are a family.

I have no idea why God has allowed me to parent these girls.  I feel so unworthy some days.  But it really is the little things that matter so much.  It’s the way I speak, the way I go about my day and the things I place at the top of the list.  Through two pairs of young, searching eyes I get the chance to portray a tiny piece of what Jesus looks like.  When I stand before Him some day, I know what I am doing today is going to matter.  They are golden opportunities.  That can feel overwhelming, but I also know that it does not all depend on me.  God chooses to use me, but He doesn’t need me.  He will bring the increase.

AF

 

 

 

I want to be ALONE!

Ok.

So this is me being honest and letting you all know that even though we’re pretty excited about our new family of 4…we’re normal.  Not every day is rainbows and shimmer.

Right now I am hiding downstairs in my jammies while my husband builds a tree house with the girls and let me tell you I am just drinking in the quietness here!  Some days I am full of energy and happiness and amazement…and other days I’m just plain old tired.  Also…my personal bubble is nonexistent these days which sometimes makes this Mama Queen of the Grumps!  Wiry little arms hugging, pulling, yanking and poking at me all day long.  Affectionate?  Yes…but Mommy is not always in the mood for affection.  Mommy is not always in the mood for silly, nonsensical chatter and stinky morning breath in my face.  Mommy is not always in the mood for bony little bodies jumping on me.  Mommy is not always in the mood for whiny little voices following me all over the kitchen as I try to get everything done that needs to be done between 5 and 6pm.  Mommy is not always in the mood for markers all over the floor, glue on the table and macaroni bracelets in the bathroom sink.  Mommy is not always in the mood for little bodies climbing up on the countertops and sending a zillion cups crashing to the floor while clumsy hands search for that perfectly pink favourite.  Mommy is not always in the mood for an out of control garden hose spraying my basket of dry laundry.  Mommy is not always in the mood for little voices calling “Watch me!”

Sigh.

Yup.

Pretty normal.

My husband is awesome about this.  He helps chase away the “Mom guilties” that want to come in and just bash me to pieces when I just need to be ALONE!  The other night after the girls were in bed I went out for like 5 minutes to pick something up and I could’ve just laughed out loud!  I felt like a FREE WOMAN!  Of course when I got back 5 minutes later two little faces were peering out the window at me calling…”Mommy!  Where did you go?!”  Like it was the most insane thing ever that I would go somewhere without them!  After all, we are pretty much inseparable…and to bring some balance to this post…I am SO thankful that I am in the position where I am able to be a stay-at-home Mom to my daughters.  I truly am grateful for that, and would not change it for the world.

However…that doesn’t mean my patience level is any higher than yours and I just wanted you to know that it’s real life around here, too!  Bedtime is usually one of my favourite times of the day.  I love to be able to tuck them in, read stories, hear them pray and just feel connected at the end of the day.  But there are some days all I want is to give a quick kiss and then BE ALONE!  Days like this one can make me feel incredibly guilty, because I know there is a Mom somewhere who would love to be able to have just one more exasperating, annoying Monday!  Some days I am that Mom…there are two little faces etched forever on my memory that make me ache with loneliness some days.  I love my girls…but I’ve learned that nobody can be replaced.  Each new little person finds their own place in my heart…a place I didn’t even know existed until they came.  The one left empty will always be just that…empty…except for the memories.  So I understand we need to treasure every second.  Just writing that made me cry.  There is a little buzz cut that used to come lay softly on my cheek every single morning and make all kinds of happy, endearing noises…and every single morning I miss that little buzz cut.  There is a pair of vivid, joyful brown eyes that used to make me smile every single day as they danced to the sound of belly giggles…even on the worst days…and I miss those brown eyes every day.  I did not think it would hurt this bad for so long.  But I’m getting off topic.  The annoyance is already starting to fade!  Lol.  Count your blessings, right?

But I’m not supermom.

And some days I am just plain old selfish…or didn’t get enough sleep…or it’s that time of the month.  Some days I am overwhelmed by the intensity of life with two little girls who need to be loved so well.

Being a mother means you get to see the worst and best of yourself almost daily.  It’s really quite the rollercoaster.  I never knew how selfish I was until I got married.  Then I knew.  Two years later, I became a ‘mom’ for the first time and I learned my selfishness ran much deeper than I’d realized.  These little people in our lives teach us so much more than we could ever imagine we didn’t know!  I like to think, though, that with so much opportunity for messiness and absolute failure there is so much potential for growth!  Every moment I choose to force a smile instead of a scowl, every time I choose to soften my tone…I get a zillion opportunities every day to be like Jesus!  And if I fail…well…at least there are still many more chances to make it right.  And the little people we learn from?  They are so quick to bounce back with a smile and a hug.  They will forgive every time.  They will love you no matter what.  After the worst day, they will still want goodnight hugs and kisses.  After the fiercest tantrum they will smile and say I’m sorry before you’ve even sorted through your own mass of feelings.  That is beautiful.

I’d like to think it’s ok to fail sometimes.

I like to remind myself we all get grumpy every now and then.

This is where abundant grace comes in…for my children and for ME.

Akeisha and Alexa love to hear us say we will love them no matter what.  Always and forever.  Some days I need to hear that from my heavenly Father, too.  He will love me no matter what.  Always and forever.  It isn’t my acts of service or my moments of graciousness or my stunning successes that earn me His love.  He loves me simply because that is who He is.

Thank you, Father

Ps. On a lighter note, the girls have been playing pirates the past few days!  LOL  It’s hilarious!  “Arty AR AR” is apparently pirate lingo.  Outfits are complete with paper eye patches, stick swords in a fabric sheath and paper hats.  So adorable 🙂