Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Unintentionally a Spectacle

Photo Found Here

Disclaimer:  I am both frugal and modest, and I’m learning that sometimes in attempt to live out one of these ideals, I sacrifice the other.

You know those articles titled something like, “You probably have a Serious Mental Health Issue if you Wear Pajamas All Day”? When those pop into my Facebook feed, I close the window. Immediately.

Because, while I make no attempt to hide the fact that I DO have issues, I’m happiest while wearing my pajamas.

However, a few months ago, I looked in the mirror and my pajama-clad self looked back at me and I finally saw what Matt had been telling me he’d been seeing for months- a lot of skin. The yoga-type pants I had purchased during college (and had continued to wear to sleep for over fifteen years), possessed the appearance of sheer pantyhose. Cheap sheer pantyhose. [You know, like the kind you purchase when the only store you can find is a dollar store and you end up buying four pairs, because you can’t get into the first three pairs without destroying them.] What had begun as a practical attempt to purchase one item I could both covertly wear to class and to sleep, had fifteen years later ended in me being inappropriate in front all the neighborhood high school and college boys (and their parents)!

You may be wondering why I didn’t just believe Matt in the first place. I would have if I had understood his meaning. Matt and I have been married for over a decade, but occasionally he uses his Southern manners and I miss his meaning altogether.

For instance, “It may be time to toss those pants,” was interpreted by me as, “Those pants are no longer attractive,” NOT, “You’re basically naked and you taking the trash out wearing those things is giving the neighborhood kids nightmares. We might have to pay for their therapy.”

Embarrassed, I decided that while I did not think wearing pajamas all day was a sign of depression for me, I HAD hit a new low.

Sometimes I want to laugh out loud when people ask me what I’m currently doing for self-care or about when I get “Me Time.” It’s not that I find these things unimportant. It’s just that I went from having one to having four children in about eighteen months time. Each of these children has very specific needs. Many of their individual needs contrast what their siblings need (and what their parents need). My life is basically a song and dance that results in our family not imploding. [Succeeding beyond “not imploding” isn’t something I’ve had a moment to consider yet.]

What I was realizing through the pants incident is if I wanted to treat others the way I treat myself, I could basically punch others in the face. If I wanted to treat others the way I wanted to be treated, I’d have to take a weekend off to figure out how I wanted to be treated. I was too exhausted to even know.

As if Matt could read my thoughts, he provided me with a weekend away. It was a monumental gift given the intense needs in our house and I didn’t take it lightly.

During that weekend, I came up with a pants plan that didn’t stress me out because plans that stress me out only add to the problem. The plan was simple:  I asked my family to purchase nice pajama pants for me as a birthday gift. I even gave specific direction:  Read the reviews. Make sure they’re cotton. Make sure they’re preshrunk.

The sheer pants quickly revealed more than my legs. Because of the sheer pants, I realized I needed to ask for help. So, I asked for pants AND time for myself for my birthday, and my amazing husband found a way to make both happen.

I guess the lesson I’m learning is that if I want to better know how I should treat others, first I need to get space to know how I want to be treated. [tweet this]

And while neglecting my family is not okay, neither is being naked in front of the neighbors.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Adoption: My Worst Parenting Mistake (So Far)

One major mistake I made when my two sons came home as older children, was treating them the same as I treated my biological child. Since all my children were similar in age, I expected they would have similar interests and we would connect in ways I already knew how to connect, because, I was already a mom. Most even considered me to be a “good mom.” [At least that’s what most said to my face.]


Prior to our two sons coming home, this “good mom” spent hours reading to her child, and, for the rest of the day, this mom and her child hung out and enjoyed each other. Trips to the library, playground, or even a friend’s house required very little (if any) planning.

By week two of mothering three children, I was at a complete loss. Our house was littered with toy fragments. I had hidden our precious library books to preserve them from utter destruction. When we did go to the playground, at least one of my children would climb up to a high place and refuse to leave. No other outings seemed reasonable. Soon, no outings seemed reasonable.

I began to resent my children. In my mind they weren’t playing their parts. I was a “good mom,” so, I began to believe our family’s chaotic state was the fault of my two children. [Tweet This]

Never in my life have I ever been more wrong.

Schooled by Burger King

Background:  Two of our children go to public school. Our other two stay home with me. One, I homeschool. Our other child is three. We haven’t deeply considered his formal education yet (which is highly unusual and suspicious where we live). Also, I have stronger feelings than most about nutrition.


One morning a couple weeks ago, I woke up at 8:15, disoriented.  I immediately called Matt to see what was wrong. While he does take all four children on the school drop off routine each morning, he’s usually home before 8.

Matt answered his phone, sounding chipper. “I’m at Burger King, eating breakfast with the kids. We’ll be home in about 45 minutes.”

I burst into tears and mumbled goodbye.

When Matt came home, he approached me warily, as if we’d just met and he was trying not to completely blow it.

“Thank you!” I exuded.

“Whew! I couldn't tell on the phone if those were happy tears or if you were upset that I was feeding the kids fast food,” he said, obviously relieved.

“I was so happy! I couldn’t imagine a better gift. Thank you!” [Again, I said this blubbering and barely understandable.]

The honest truth is that, years ago, I WOULD have cried because my husband had made the poor (and, possibly, unforgivable) decision to feed our children fast food. Sadly, at the time, I was more concerned about meeting my parenting ideals than I was about recognizing and accepting Matt’s gift. When I look back on it, he has rarely (if ever) given the kids fast food out of convenience for himself.

When he takes the kids out to eat spontaneously, he’s trying to help me, and he’s doing it to say, “Thank you.” “I love you.” “I appreciate you.” “I couldn’t do what you do.”

He takes the children out because he wishes he could give me a week away at a spa (or at a nice hotel with a huge library- which would be far better than a spa for me). That gift is highly impractical for a variety of reasons in our family, so he does what he CAN do and I’m finally learning to appreciate it.

I’m trying to embrace a new-for-me concept:  

Lowering the Bar (a lot)
Gratitude (a lot)
Healthier, Happier Me

With me healthier and happier, our entire family is more relaxed.

The truth is, our family has complex needs* and we cannot handle any non-essential stress. [tweet this] Me unnecessarily adding stress weakens us. Even though I still do not personally think Burger King sausage patties are a healthy way to start the morning, I'll admit, our children are healthier consuming those sausage patties than they are being consumed by my heightened stress level.

However, those sausage patties did lead to intestinal problems that were not exactly calming.

I am thankful for learning an important lesson from Burger King, but, in an effort to give me a peaceful morning not followed by an afternoon and evening of sick children, Matt will likely be patronizing a local diner the next time he wants to surprise me with a quiet morning to myself.

*Our family's complex needs began with adoption. However, the honest truth is adoption quickly exposed our individual weaknesses and THAT is where most of the complexity comes in.

This post was originally published March 1, 2016

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Coffee Colored Sofa

When Matt and I were married, I chose a sofa that distinctly matches the coffee stains I anticipated making. It’s one of the few decisions I’ve made in my adult life that I’m absolutely confident I will never regret.

Because, I LOVE coffee. And I spill coffee. A lot.

Because I’m imperfect, there is always work to do. Work that will hopefully result in me being a better human being. One who is such a mess, must have priorities to make any progress. [tweet this] My priorities are to increase my patience, learn how to care for and identify with people I think I have little in common with, and learn how to best share the gifts I have with the world (despite my obvious messiness). Spending my energy learning how not to spill coffee only distracts from those. And it’s true. I never was and never will be a pageant queen. That ship has sailed. I’ll also never be a traditional stay-at-home-mom with a pristine home. And I’ll never be the working mom who blow dries her hair (or showers) everyday. Never is a strong word, but I say never because those things are completely inconsistent with what I want most in the world. “Looking together,” in my opinion, is always an illusion of some sort and illusions only distract me from connecting with other human beings. Doing my “nevers” would be tragic, because they so obviously are inconsistent with my priorities. [By the way, I realize your “nevers” and my “nevers” don’t likely match and I’m not judging you if you DO go to work each day with perfectly blow dried hair or if your house looks like a museum. Some people do these things while fulfilling their purpose. I just can’t. Which says a lot about me and absolutely nothing about you.]

While some are great at “looking together,” none of us truly have it together. And, truthfully, the most memorable moments of my life are moments where I’ve connected with others on the common ground of messiness. THESE are the moments I would not trade.

None of this is about changing my perception and pretending the imperfections don’t exist. For me, it’s about gracefully embracing my most obvious unimportant imperfections so they are less of a distraction from the things that really matter. The coffee colored sofa consistently blends one of my unimportant imperfections into our life. Due to our sofa color, I feel less messy and our house has a calm tone, even though, it’s truly gross (but it smells delightful). While I’ll admit, I think “peace” and “comfort” are ideals that far too often become false idols, “calm” and “consistent” are, in our unusual family, worth aiming for. With calm, we, very messy people, are better able to focus on connecting with each other. For us, a little calm goes a long way.

While marriage is hard work, raising children is beautiful and messy, and raising children through adoption is beautiful and complicated in more ways than I could possibly mention here, sometimes it’s nice to console myself with the fact I’ve got at least one thing going for me.

Eleven years ago, I chose the right color sofa.

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