“You’re going to lose the ship, but all of the people aboard will survive.”

Title taken from the end of Acts…maybe Acts 23 or so? When Paul is going through still more hardships, including years of wrongful imprisonment and an impending shipwreck during stormy seas. Literally.

Our stormy seas are figurative. We are dealing with serious regression around here, with our foster kiddos returning to daily behaviors including defiance, tantrums, violence, disrespect and disobedience like we haven’t seen since their first months here. I spend most of my time splitting up fights, separating children, making sure those children stay separated, then going back and checking on the children who aren’t having a consequence at that moment, then going back to the first children and talking with them about their choices and reinstating their privileges, and then starting it all over again, with some kicks, screaming, and throwing of someone else’s valuables thrown in here and there. All the while attempting to keep my own temper and not let my buttons be pushed.

This morning as I was walking by our beautiful reservoir, God brought the above passage to mind. He reassured Paul with an angel, which seems a little more definitive to me. God, if you read my blog, I would really like an angel to come to me in my dreams and tell me the same thing. But as the angels have remained silent thusfar, I’ll just trust that the Holy Spirit brought this to my mind for a reason.

Our family will survive. The ship will not. What that ship is, I’m not sure. My best guess is that the “ship” is my own plan for how our kids’ childhoods should look. I’m thinking that God is shattering my own utopian ideals for my five kids’ childhood experiences. I’m supposed to trust that His plan for their early years is better than mine. That somehow His infinite knowledge of past, present, and future is more comprehensive than mine and He will give my kids the life experiences they need in order to fill the roles He has for them later in life.

He has been faithful. He is faithful. And according to the Bible, He will be faithful to complete the good work He began in us.

Of course, we just talked about the staggering extent of Paul’s faith in difficult circumstances at our Women’s Bible Study yesterday. Sometimes God is just a little bit too ironic for my liking.

 

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess :: Reflections on Clothes Month

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For four weeks I wore the seven clothing items shown above. (Well, it’s actually eight. For some reason, the author of this challenge decided that shoes should count as one item, but we should only pick two pairs to wear all month.) So it was pretty weird. And I think we are unfairly challenged with our California weather, which included a big rain storm and what we consider some very cold days, and then a week of extreme heat! (Over 90 degrees in February? Yes, please! I love you, California!)

Which means that I wore the same tank top every day for about a week. Twice. When it was cold there was a little more variety. Thank goodness for that jacket…nobody cares if you wear the same jacket to school drop off every morning.

But you know what? It wasn’t a big deal. Nobody said a word about it. Whether they noticed or not, I don’t know. I’m guessing not. The ladies in our group who work in offices had a much tougher time this month. In my life I rarely see the same people two days in a row. I did get tired of my two tops (black tank top bought second-hand, light blue long sleeved from American Apparel) but it made my morning prep time SO easy!

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We did add seven accessories from seven different countries or charities to pray for, which made it easier to mix things up a bit. Rainbow scarf from a second-hand store benefitting homeless women and their children. Gray belt from Goodwill. Orange scarf from a second-hand store benefitting a battered women’s shelter where our Midge stayed before she came into foster care! Green beads from Haitian Creations, giving women a way to earn money for their families. Off white hat made in China, where we have missionary friends and where our good friends are in the process of adopting for the third time. Purple beanie from Krochet Kids, another organization giving poor women a way to make money to support their families. And silver Africa necklace to remind me to pray for Northrise University, a christian university in Zambia that is changing lives and making a difference in their country.

For many in our group, it was a new idea to think about who made the clothes we wear and whether the price was actually giving the workers a fair wage or not. (If you don’t think about it, it’s usually not.) It’s been a few years since I started making a concerted effort to buy second-hand and research stores’ ethics ratings before buying. And I’ve definitely backslid in being purposeful in this area. The hoodie and boots I wore this month were most likely not ethically sourced. So it’s good to think about it again.

And this month really did remind me of how few items of clothing we really NEED. So I did this:

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BEFORE: 225 clothing items, not including accessories, pajamas, workout gear and shoes

Do you see that silver metal basket in the back left with the army green pants and rainbow scarf? That’s the basket where all of my seven clothes lived for the past month. So I pretty much wore what was in there plus shoes. Mind-boggling. Makes me wonder why I have all that other stuff. Which leads me to:

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AFTER: 114 clothing items (and I purged a lot of pajamas and other stuff, too.)

My new wardrobe is a few items over half of my old one. I will admit that I saved two large boxes of clothes on a shelf on the left side of my closet. These are the clothes that didn’t make the top 114, but I like them just fine and I’m not sure I won’t miss them. Isn’t that ridiculous? I’ve lived on 7 clothing items for a month without any problem, yet I think I won’t be able to squeeze by on 114 items? But I did put those extras into a box, and if I don’t need them for a few months, they’ll go off to be donated like the rest. It’s a start, right?

Family Updates Are Few & Far Between.

It’s difficult to write here when things are sliding backwards. I don’t want to over-share my kids’ struggles, yet I don’t want to act like everything’s rosy when it’s not. So instead, I have just keep my mouth shut (or in this case, my fingers still!)

I will say that God has worked amazingly in my heart in the past five weeks. I woke up on February 1st, the nine month anniversary of our kids joining our family, and decided I’d had enough of my pity party and my selfish behavior. I didn’t like my life and there was no sign of it getting better if I didn’t change myself. And for whatever reason, the Holy Spirit began working that day. I know when we pray that God always answers: yes, no, or wait. I’ve been in the ‘wait’ category for several months, harboring bad feelings towards my situation, my kids, and even towards God, all while praying for improvement.

I have turned a corner. At ten months in, I may not be the most fabulous mother to my children, but I’m a lot better than I was five weeks ago. There’s a lot more compassion, and a stronger will to fight for these kids and our relationships. I’m hanging onto my bible time and my 1000 gifts devotional and thankfulness list, along with a devotional a good friend gave me for people in difficult life circumstances. All of that to keep me clinging to Jesus, along with daily doses (sometimes twice daily!) of a few ‘parenting kids from hard places’ books that remind me of how I’m supposed to change my thinking and my parenting techniques for these kids.

Meanwhile, Jake has been improving in his behavior. This fostering business has always been hardest on him, and he exhibits behavior that is straight out of our  trauma training sessions! I guess when you like routine and predictability and are a sensitive kid, being a foster brother from age 6-10 is traumatic! Tyler has always been the easiest with all of this. But this past week he’s had a rough time. Greg and I realize he needs a little more one on one time and are hoping to do that soon. Our five year old A. has been getting better at school and home. If only I could stop showing my frustration with him, he might be able to stop his defiance! (My frustrated voice is definitely one of his biggest triggers.)

As for our six-year old E., things have come to, as our social worker calls it, “a point of crisis.” Her current school situation is not working for her at all. In foster parenting-speak, her chronological age is 6.5. Her social age is about 11. Her academic age is about 5. And her emotional age is about 3. You can see how difficult this would make things in a first grade classroom at a school full of people (adults and children) expecting her to meet the academic standards and negotiate the social/emotional situations of a 6-7 year old. We’re working with the school staff but aren’t optimistic about them being able to meet her needs right now.

Thankfully, God showed up at just the right time to make me more empathetic to her feelings and open to different options for meeting her needs. Not everyone understands her special needs, but as long as Greg and I do, we have the responsibility to do whatever is in her best interest while also considering the family as a whole. We’ve been praying for about a month about what to do and have been talking with the professionals who will have to approve the decision since she’s still officially in foster care and we can’t make parenting decisions yet!  In just the past week, I’m feeling a bit more sure of where we’re headed. Next week I will have a little more information and hopefully we can feel confident with whatever we decide.

Every time I think about our family, I think of the tag-line at the beginning of the old Jon and Kate Plus Eight reality t.v. show: It might be a crazy life, but it’s OUR life. Yep. That’s us.

7 : An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess :: Finishing up Food, Starting Clothes

It’s been over a week since food month ended, but it’s still affecting me physically. The first four days after food month ended, I spent much of the day with a stomach ache…like the food I was eating was just sitting there like a rock. The digestive issues I’ve struggled with off and on for more than a year but were completely gone during food month…they returned. And for the last week, my energy has been so much lower than it was during food month.

On day five after the fast ended, I found myself eating beans with an egg for breakfast, Seven style. I couldn’t believe it.

I’m trying to figure out my new relationship with food. I know sugar is bad. Very bad. Poison, some would say. I know that cheese as a big portion of a meal (paninis, grilled cheese, many mexican foods) is not agreeing with me. But how am I going to move forward from here? I still don’t know. But I do know that I am oh-so-happy to add an avocado and enchilada sauce to my egg and beans or tomatoes breakfast. I’m going to keep messing with my diet until I feel good again but don’t feel deprived.

And Clothes Month.

Seven items of clothing: two pairs of pants, one long sleeved shirt, one tank top, one hoodie sweatshirt, one jacket, one pair of boots.

And this morning when I got dressed and looked in the mirror, I realized that my first outfit doesn’t look cute. And pair number one of pants are inching uncomfortably down, thanks to the Seven-induced weight loss. Which is generally a good thing, but not so much when you have only two pairs of pants to wear all month. Hmmm. I’m not sure that I chose wisely.

But whatever. Because I don’t have to wonder what I’m going to wear when I wake up in the morning. Who cares? I anticipate a much quicker morning routine. And hopefully a much better focus on what Christ thinks of me rather than what other people think of me. This month’s going to be a breeze compared to food month.

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pardon the lack of makeup. and the awkward little boot lift…my five year old photographer told me that my feet weren’t in the picture. obviously he was mistaken!

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess :: Reflecting on Food Month

Eggplant tomorrow!!!

Eggplant tomorrow!!!

This is it. Month One of 7 is over today. Shopping at Trader Joe’s and the Farmer’s Market this morning was like a shopping spree! Beets! Strawberries! Broccoli! Swiss Chard! Avocados! Asparagus! Lettuce! I can’t wait to eat them all! (Except lettuce, which is really just a vehicle for other goodies, in my mind.) I even went back to the store after the kids went to bed (because Tyler now requests french toast for his birthday breakfast tomorrow and I have no appropriate bread) and picked up some jicama and an eggplant. I cannot WAIT to eat them. Preferably all tomorrow. It’s been a very hard month for me, as I knew it would be. I think it will be the hardest of the seven months for me. And what did I learn?

1. There are a LOT of really tasty healthy foods in this world. My seven were very good choices. I never did completely tire of the chicken, rice, beans, tomatoes and eggs. I can’t believe it. I chose the beans because that’s what most of the world’s poor eats, and also, I’ve long been wanting to incorporate more into our diet here. Mission accomplished. I’m happily eating beans at almost every meal. The apples got a little tiresome, mostly because they were my only portable food so I ate them a lot. I told Greg tonight at dinner (rice, beans, sauteed spinach) that I think it will be a long time until I eat spinach again. And then I went onto Pinterest before my late night store run, and what did I see but a spinach salad with avocado, chicken, pine nuts, and vinaigrette. And do you know what I ended up buying a 1 lb. tub of at the store tonight?! Spinach and all other 7-worthy foods aside, there are SO many good fruits and vegetables we can enjoy. I’m so lucky to live not only in a country with great access to food, but in a state with a healthy mindset. Everywhere I went there were quick options for healthful living, even some that fit into my food rules.

2. You’d be surprised what you miss. For the first two or three weeks, I REALLY wanted sweets. And cheese. And butter. And perhaps it’s because I have the flu and am not really well yet, but I’m not even that interested in the cake I’m baking for Tyler and Greg’s birthdays. And I’m almost repulsed by the thought of donuts tomorrow for birthdays. (In fairness, I was never a huge donut fan.) But I thought after four weeks that I’d be DYING for sweets that first day! No! I am salivating over a quinoa salad with diced vegetables and lemon dressing. And the last of the greek pasta salad I made for the family earlier this week. And grilled eggplant and peppers on my panini tomorrow at lunch!!

3. Eating well makes a difference in your body and energy levels. I’m not sure whether it’s the diet or my new exercise regime (probably both), but I lost 10 pounds this month. Seriously. This was not my goal for exercising or for eating the seven foods, but boy, what a nice perk! Even better, I feel more energetic all day long. In light of this and of #2, I’m trying to figure out where I go from here. I’ve been watching food documentaries (a favorite past-time of mine) and I read this month that studies have shown sugar to be more addictive than cocaine. I am not surprised. I don’t want to jump back on the sugar bandwagon and lose all of this healthy momentum and hard work. On the other hand, I don’t want to give up sugar altogether. I feel like an addict who’s been clean for a month, asking her sponsor if she could just have a hit now and then at parties. I’m not sure what’s going to happen but I’m thinking about it.

4. You can’t force spiritual growth. It happens organically, one day at a time, one bible reading at a time, one prayer at a time. I need to remember that this is a seven month journey, not a four week sprint. I had been hoping for my spiritual life to break wide open like the winter ground popping up daffodils. That didn’t happen. I did have my morning run “moment” and other than that, spiritual things are just plugging along day by day. But that’s okay. There were so many other great benefits, and I know God had His plan for me this month and for the next six months.

5. People eat a lot. At every event. And really, if I plan ahead, I can avoid most of the unhealthy stuff just by keeping myself full of little snacks here and there (ALMONDS!!! Where have you been all month! I miss you!) and by perhaps being the one who brings the healthy but yummy dish to the potluck?

So there it is. My month is over. I didn’t even bother to eat lunch today, because, really? It was going to be beans and rice and an egg over top and anyway I’m sick so what’s the point. Honestly, I almost cut my month short on Tuesday when I came down with the flu. I’d done almost a month, so what difference would the last four days make? As it turns out, a lot of difference. It wasn’t until today that it actually dawned on me that I hadn’t been craving sweets or cheese anymore. I will admit to these three cheats for the month: 1) I accidentally popped three grapes in my mouth during week two while rinsing them for the kids’ snack and didn’t realize it until the next day. Oops. 2) When I got the flu I had two cups of tea with honey and lemon. 3) Again, Tuesday’s flu had me adding hot sauce to my rice and chicken in hopes that the heat would help my body fight the fever. No luck.  Other than those three, I was a clean-cut 7 champion. I did it. And even that feeling of accomplishment makes me feel like it was worth it, too.

I recognize the gift it is to be creative in my cooking. To start with plants and turn them into something delicious and healthful. I am really glad I did this and I’m even gladder that my “council” of women for this 7 journey are sticklers for rules. Because from day one I had decided that I’d let myself use all kinds of spices and a little bit of cheese or nuts here and there to “garnish” my dishes, when we really know that there would often be almonds garnishing the air in my hands as I scarfed them down. So because of the “council” of ladies, I didn’t eat cheese or those nuts or anything else non-7-approved, and I feel like it was a bigger accomplishment than it otherwise would have been.

A little bit of self-control and self-deprivation and self-examination never hurt anyone. I am thankful for it.

And I’m glad it’s over. Bring on the eggplant. I think I’ll saute it up and make a garlic yogurt dip for it on the side. Ahhhh….

At the End of Ourselves…

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the rest of the family’s breakfast (mine was an egg over, you guessed it, beans, rice, tomatoes and chicken)

At the end of ourselves is where we find God. Or so I’ve heard. And maybe today I experienced it.

This morning I was at the end of myself. To be honest, I was at the end of myself yesterday, and when I didn’t get to eat the heath bar covered brownies and one of the children pushed my buttons in a seriously annoying way and there were five needy children at bedtime and I was tired and realized I hadn’t gone for a run all weekend, I was done.

I almost ate that brownie. I was this close. I even considered putting a call out for solidarity/support onto our little 7 challenge Facebook group. Then I decided that no, I should just not tell them and make this my one cheat of the month and nobody need find out about it. Then I distracted myself, like all good toddler parents know how to do, and then I lay down on the couch to watch t.v., because thank goodness media and food months aren’t at the same time. And then it was bedtime. And I was not going to waste my one brownie cheat if I had to immediately brush away that delectable chocolatey flavor. Phew.

I was jolted awake by one of my darling children at 6:00 a.m. on a non-school day because, as he put it, “I have a really bad bloody nose and there’s no more toilet paper!” by which he meant, I’ve used a whole roll of toilet paper for the three bloody noses I’ve had during the night because I use two feet of paper to blot my nose one time. If bloody noses were an anomaly in our house perhaps I’d be a bit more compassionate. But two nights ago I was awakened at 2:00 a.m. by a different child to clean up the bloody nose mess she’d made in the bathroom. And Greg has dealt with at least one child’s bloody nose every morning this week. If any more fluids come out of these children’s bodies, I might have to move out. We are not amused.

Of course, I had been reading a parenting book last night and felt encouraged to start fresh with trying not to lose my temper with the kids. Needless to say, I didn’t last through my first three minutes awake.

So I came downstairs to Greg and began crying for all the bloody noses and the fighting and my inability to stop getting frustrated and the fact that it was a non-school day and Greg not only had to work, but also had a meeting that would keep him out until after the kids’ bedtime. So Greg comforted me for a second and then tried to solve my problem, which forced me to sniff up my tears and proclaim rudely, “I’m going for a run.”

And I hadn’t run in four days, which is not good. But the path was deserted and the moon was bright and I was outside in God’s creation. My thoughts swirled angrily for a while and then turned to wondering. And whining to God about why He took away my easy little comfortable-parent-of-two-bio-kids-life and gave me this hard one that I often don’t like in its place. And seriously, God, now I can’t eat brownies, either?

And good old Job came to mind. He gives and takes away…blessed be the name of the LORD.

Maybe I hit rock bottom. Maybe I realized once and for all that the easy little life I had was given to me by the LORD as a gift. And it’s His to take away when that serves His greater purpose. And if I don’t have a calm home here anymore and if I can’t eat sweets (yes, by my own choice, but I really did feel led by the Holy Spirit to start this 7 fast) so what? And all of the sudden I realized what hope we have in heaven. And I thought of all those people out there who don’t have that hope when they’ve lost everything, and I don’t mean brownies and comfortable lives. I mean when they’ve lost children or health or jobs or marriages or seriously big things. I can’t imagine life’s difficulties without that hope.

The longing for heaven is what I found on my run this morning. And some perspective. I came around a curve and saw the sunrise reflected in the water of the reservoir behind our neighborhood and it was beautiful. I paused for a moment and thanked God. Within a few minutes it was light and that beauty was gone. It was a moment given just to me from my creator who is my heavenly Father.

Consistent gratitude has been missing from my everyday life for the past few months.

If I am eating only seven foods this month, what is that in the grand scheme of things? If parenting and enjoying my home is much harder now, what would be the alternative for the two kids who bring much of the chaos? They’re already considered “older children” in the world of adoption. Add to their ages their race, that they’re part of a sibling pair, and that they’ve both been labeled to have violent tendencies, one has asthma and speech problems and the other a serious heart condition, and you’ve got two kids who’d be bopping around foster and group homes their whole lives. Can I really be that selfish to wish for a brownie and some quiet hours on the couch?

So I ran home with a changed heart and a new hope. The hope of heaven and the hope that we have on earth in Christ. That I should not grow weary of doing good for in due season I would reap if I didn’t lose heart and didn’t give up. And that the Holy Spirit can work in families with broken people. And that I could withstand those chocolate croissants I had baking in the oven for the kids as a special treat.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

iphoneography : january part 1

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2014 challenge:

use my iphone to capture and edit unique perspectives on our lives this year

Frustrated with the lack of great personal photos from 2013, I am setting out on a photography challenge this year. Not quite a project 365 (where you must take a picture every day) but I’ll aim for about that many great shots in the end. I’m not averse to having two good shots from one day or none from another. Hopefully I’ll be motivated to pick up my “real” camera this year and get back into the groove of taking and editing my own pictures instead of just my clients’ pictures. For now, here are some of the first from my iphonography 2014 challenge.

new year's eve aftermath

new year’s eve aftermath

and so it begins...four kids in tennis

and so it begins…four kids in tennis

she finally gets her gymnastics lessons

she finally gets her gymnastics lessons

brothers forever

brothers forever

school's morning mist

school’s morning mist

windowsill

windowsill

18 mile ride

18 mile ride

wonderful weather for the outdoors

wonderful weather for the outdoors

cuddling on the swing with my baby

cuddling on the swing with my baby

daddy's favorite moment

daddy’s favorite moment

i spy four woodards...do you?

i spy four woodards…do you?

Happy shooting in 2014!

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess :: in the trenches of food month

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After my pre-7 Costco run: produce for juicing and pleny of my 7 foods for the month!

I’m halfway through my first month of seven and it’s starting to get old. The first week was way easier than I thought it would be. I think that’s just because we’re still getting into the swing of things around here after Christmas break and we’ve been so busy. This second week hasn’t been that bad, but I’m beginning to tire of my foods. If only I didn’t feed the rest of my family so well, I wouldn’t have to see the yummy things everyone else is eating without me!

My problem is that I really do like food. I like planning a new menu for each week. I love variety and there are hardly any foods I don’t enjoy, so I regularly change our family dishes to keep things interesting. I like so many different vegetables and sauces and savories and sweets! Oh, sweets! I love you. And butter and cheese, I was so close to putting at least one of you on my list of seven foods.

That’s it: only seven foods for a month. Choose wisely, I advise you, if you ever take on this foolish task. I’ve been completely happy with my choices of rice, beans, chicken, eggs, spinach, tomatoes, and apples. Considering nutrients and possible food combinations, my list has been ideal. We can use olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper for seasoning, but still, there are no sweets! No coffee treats or cheese to jazz up my beans or my salads. Sun dried tomatoes and apples in every form have been my saviors. But even still, after two weeks I’m kind of over it. In addition to water, I am drinking juices made at home so that I can try out the juicer I’m borrowing from my dad.  And even with the incredible motivation of juicing being the only mode for me to eat non-7 foods, I’ve only had juice three times, so that tells me whether buying my own juicer is worth it! Guess not.

It would be easier for me if I really felt my spiritual life being shaken up by this 7 food fast. I’ve fasted from sweets before while praying for direction on certain life decisions, and while skipping sweets is a serious sacrifice for me, it’s easier when I have a defined purpose in mind. This 7 fast is a little vague and open-ended for me. “Taking away excess to make room for the Holy Spirit to work” isn’t quite as specific as I’d like. How will I see the Spirit move? What changes will I feel happening? Will I truly feel more compassion for the world’s poor, who live on much less food than this every day? I am happy that I lost five pounds in the first week (I also started my triathalon training that same week, so there’s that) but losing weight isn’t my goal here so it’s not helping me feel motivated. I haven’t given up on the spiritual shake-up yet, but I’m still waiting.

I’m committed to this for the long haul, so I keep plugging along. Me and my apples, my freeze dried apples, and my applesauce, all of which I had in the same afternoon at Disneyland with the kids. I will admit that after that Applepolooza, as my friend Toby called it, I was a little appled out.

Two weeks down, two to go. I’m hoping to reflect here in the middle of each fast and at the end, just to see the progress I’m making over the seven months. Right now, I’ve got a chicken carcass on the stove creating homemade chicken broth, to which I’ll add (what else?!) rice, beans, diced tomatoes, spinach, lemon, salt and pepper. Yum and yawn, all at the same time.

Holy Spirit? Where are you at?

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess :: Introduction

I'm into month one now. Can you guess one of my seven foods?

I’m into month one now. Can you guess one of my seven foods?

I mentioned that I’ve been in a weird place for the past few months. I think its a combination of things going pretty well from the outside yet things still being difficult behind the curtains. When the kids’ parents’ rights were terminated in December (and even before that when it looked like it would happen soon), I realized that this is my life. Home life is not easy anymore, so being home is not the haven it used to be. Spiritually, I was feeling a winter season coming on after a very exciting summer and fall harvest-type season in my spiritual life. I recognized that if I didn’t find something to shake me up a bit, some goal or something to work on, I could easily slip away in the wrong direction. It’s so easy to atrophy towards lives that are different from and seem easier than the ones God calls us to.

Enter: Seven : an experimental mutiny against excess, by Jen Hatmaker. I read this book over a year ago and while I enjoyed her writing, I didn’t feel at all inspired to try something similar in my life. Of course, I think we were probably in the throes of losing Midge at the time, and life was full of stress, visitations, emotional upheaval and uncertainty. It was no time for any more challenges than the one we were living. Plus, some of the challenges seemed too daunting while others seemed irrelevant to me. 

A month or two ago, one of the women from our church posted on Facebook about the book, and many others responded. Pretty soon a group of women who wanted to try the seven month challenge had formed, and without reviewing what I was in for, I signed up, looking for something to shake me up a bit in my physical and spiritual life. 

While seven is an experiment in eliminating excess from our lives and Hatmaker sets her own rigid rules for each month, the focus is supposed to be on spiritual formation and compassion for the poor. Readers can challenge themselves in the same way as the author or make their own rules, but the goal should be the same: more of the Holy Spirit and less of our own indulgences ruling our lives. 

A one month fast of some kind in the following areas of excess: Food. Clothing. Possessions. Media. Spending. Waste. Stress. 

I saw the group forming on Facebook and I was in. I AM in. I am going to be in for the next seven months. What the heck was I thinking?

A New Year :: A New Start

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It’s been a long few weeks here as I seemed to have hit a wall in several areas of my life and felt kind of lost for a bit. But things are looking up! I’m feeling optimistic and motivated…

 

san elijo_047_February 09, 2013

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  • a fresh start with Emmie. Our relationship is very tricky and our personalities clash in lots of ways. But I have a newfound determination to think before I speak, and to preface each interaction with her with the thought of “What would a loving mother do here?” and then just do it, regardless of what I’m feeling. (An idea I got from another adoptive mom’s blog.)
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  • exercise. 2011, 2012, and 2013 are all a big blur to me. I feel like I’ve been treading water for three years and we finally have some stability in our lives. Which means I can finally really make a decent effort at getting regular exercise into my weekly routine. In fact, wait for it… I’m training for a triathalon! My weakness is running so I’m starting there and will add in the swimming and bike training once I can run a few miles without dying! I found a neighbor who’s going to try it with me, and hopefully we’ll be ready at the end of August!
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  • spiritual life. It comes as no surprise that Satan’s been attacking me in the past few months. Speaking with Greg in church about fostering and adopting, teaching the women’s study on Wednesday mornings every three or four weeks, daily living in a way that goes against cultural apathy…none of these things please Satan much. So I’ve seen a surge of temptation and am feeling a dry spell spiritually. I remember feeling this once in college and coming across the following in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters: (speaking from the devil’s point of view) “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”  So I’m heading forward and am joining a group of great christian women who are going through Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven, and trying the challenges. The goal is that with the monthly fasts from one excess or another, our spiritual lives would be awakened in a new way.
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  • food. First up in the challenges from Seven is a food challenge. My most dreaded challenge. Because I love to eat. A lot. And I like butter. But if you’re picking only seven foods to eat for a month, butter had really better not be one of them. Actually, I was already thinking about trying some juicing to get more fruits and vegetable nutrients into our lives, and a friend is trying a clean eating challenge with some kind of shakes, which I hate. So why not start out the year with a food detox challenge torture situation? The worst that can happen is that I’m miserable and lose a lot of weight in January. It’s only a month. And maybe it will jump start my food choices in a healthier way for the year.
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  • photography. Boy, was 2013 a crummy year in photography for me. (Feeling annoyed about this, I did scrape through my archives to find the 2013 pictures that I’m using in this post!) My favorite pictures were almost all for clients and hardly ever for me. I want to change that this year. I’m going to try to use my iphone to create some photography that I love, instead of just grabbing it to record the jog-a-thon or the Christmas program. I want to use my big camera more, too, but as for a creativity challenge, I’m trying it with my iphone. Hmmm….
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  • carpool. Okay, so this isn’t quite as momentous as any other things, but I have found another parent to split the morning kindergarten pickups with! Right now I get to school at 8:00 for Anthony’s start, stay until 8:30 for Emmie and Tyler’s start, then get home a little before 9:00, only to turn around and leave at 11:00 to pick Anthony up again. Two hours is not a lot of time! But now, two or three days a week I can stay home and he’ll be brought to my door at 11:45. Perfect!! And Emmie has settled in with her friends before school so I’m planning to leave at 8:00 some days instead of staying until the second bell. Freedom!IMG_1867

So for the first time in a while, I’m feeling good. Optimistic. Goal oriented. I do love a new year!

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Parental Rights Were Terminated.

I can’t believe it’s only five days until Christmas. So much has happened since I last posted…I know it’s no secret that I’m barely keeping this blog alive. But that’s reality: life gets busy and I’m okay with that.

The big news is that the trial happened for E and A on December 9, and miracle of all miracles, they terminated their parents’ rights! We couldn’t believe it. Apparently, they asked the social worker if we would be open to becoming only legal guardians for the kids so that their mom could keep on trying to get them back. She informed them that there was no way we would be open to that, and that if they did that, they should be prepared to find the kids a new home because she didn’t think we would keep them. She was right, but I’m glad I didn’t know about any of this beforehand! I have never heard Greg speechless until the moment I called him to tell him that the rights were terminated.

So we haven’t had visits for two weeks, which has been amazing. There will be a goodbye visit the day after Christmas with their birth mother, and I don’t know what’s going on with their birth father. It’s strange to call them “birth parents” but as E informed A, that’s what they’re going to be now. She has a best friend two doors down who was adopted as an infant from foster care, and apparently they had discussed this during a playdate at some point. I’m thankful that we know so many adopted people at school and in the neighborhood, so that it doesn’t seem strange for our new little ones.

The kids are doing really well with it. E was upset the first night, as she really thought her birth mother was going to get her back (because she had been telling E this at visits, apparently.) And she’s really upset that she won’t ever see her old friends again. But after that first night, we haven’t seen any mourning. I know that will come in waves over the next few years.

As for A, he was thrilled to hear he was staying with us forever. He wasn’t really paid much attention to at his old house. E calls for so much attention that I think A was just an afterthought in the corner. Nobody played with him or spent much time with him, I don’t think. He has never once said that he missed anyone or anything from his old house, family, life. How sad. But now he’s here forever and couldn’t be more pleased to have brothers and a family who love him and pay attention to him.

And we have seen Midge once a week since Thanksgiving! We met up with her and her dad at Disneyland last Sunday, and she’s coming over for the day this Sunday, when we will open her Christmas presents with her. Her dad informed me today that the dreaded horrible social worker who was taken off the case has now weaseled her way back in. It is the worst news I could have heard. This woman is determined to keep Midge in limbo forever and to give her mother more and more visitations all the time. Couldn’t she just leave the poor baby alone and let her try to lead a normal life? No. She can’t.

We are grateful that Midge’s dad seems to be willing to let us help him with her quite often. I would love to get to the point where we have her at least one day a week on a regularly scheduled basis. It would give him a break, because she rules the roost over there and can drive him crazy, and it would be good for her and for our kids, who all miss their sister.

When people ask me how many kids I have, I say five. She will always be my baby, no matter where she lives. When a parent divorces, they don’t disown their child just because they live with a different parent now, do they? If asked for more details I tell them my kids are 3, 5, 6, 7, and 9, but my 3 year old lives with her dad right now. All true, and definitely more accurate than saying that I only have four kids.

Merry Christmas to you all! I will be here trying to survive the two and a half weeks of the kids all together, trying to get along. The Christmas festivities are all new for E and A, so it’s been extra fun this year seeing it all afresh through their eyes. And I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to what the new year may bring!

A Week Off, or a Week On?

When your kids have a whole week off for Thanksgiving, do you cheer or moan? I’ve done some of each this week.

Jake and I had a great cub scout campout last weekend and I had a beautiful hike by myself today, both of which gave me some distance from the children that was much needed. Clingy children and a little too much sibling ‘togetherness’ can suffocate me! The good news is that several times in the last few days, E has played successfully with the other three for up to an hour. This is a major victory! Although the things they’re playing are a little wilder than I’d like, maybe I can see the light that E could become part of the sibling group play time. Thank goodness.

She’s Gone (Again.)

Midge’s dad didn’t want to wait to pick her up today, like we’d talked about earlier this week. He came last night and got her. He’s acting strange and I don’t know what he heard about what we reported to the agency. We couldn’t, in good conscience, keep our concerns to ourselves. I’m guessing something was said about us at court. I’m going to call the social worker and request a copy of the court transcripts. (We can only get those because we are de facto parents.)

When he took her, he mentioned that they’d be busy until after the holidays. Then he mentioned something about Thanksgiving, so hopefully he meant that we could see her after Thanksgiving.

In any case, apparently the judge mandated two visits a month for Midge WITH US. Huh? I’ve never heard of a judge ordering visits with foster parents. I have no idea what that’s about. Maybe the social worker can clear up what happened yesterday at court.

As for the stages of grief, I’m firmly in the denial stage.

We Interrupt This Great Idea With The Loss of Our Baby Girl.

So it was a great idea to really consolidate the things I can tell people I need help with when they ask if they can help out. And I still plan to do it, but as it turns out, God was already planning to take a big load off of us.

Midge will probably be leaving us again on Saturday.

Turns out that Social Services has cleared up (in their minds) the reason that Midge was removed this last time. Hasn’t really cleared up our concerns, but since when were foster parents’ concerns ever important? Even when we’ve parented this girl for about twice as long as either biological parent.

And on top of that, we’re not really sure where our relationship is with Midge’s dad right now. We couldn’t in clear conscience not say anything to Midge’s attorney and social worker about our concerns, but if it gets back to him that we are concerned, he could very well shut us out of her life completely. And who knows what he’s been told already. Just today he told me that he’s going back to his old church instead of coming to ours, where he’s been coming sporadically for the last few months.

And to think that I was honestly thinking that this really might be the last chance, like everyone so gravely said it was at the “Team Decision Meeting” a few weeks ago, where the only members of the “Team” who matter are the birth parents. Who’s on Midge’s team over there at the county?

So there you have it. Our schedule is clearing up suddenly. But don’t worry, I plan on having plenty of extra meltdowns to deal with from E, as she fell apart last time Midge left. Should be fun. So there will be plenty of need for that help we were talking about yesterday…

So You Want To Help? Part I.

I posted a link on facebook to this great blog post about ways to help families adjusting to new kids in the home. It’s funny how everyone jumps up to volunteer to bring meals and help out when a newborn baby arrives, knowing that newborns suck every minute out of the day, and the minutes leftover belong to the big sisters and brothers who still need some mommy and daddy, too. But people don’t often realize that bringing home bigger kids is just as hard as bringing home newborns. I realize how uniquely we are blessed to have a wonderful church, school, and neighborhood community who has rallied around us and wants to help us when things are hard!

When our car broke down and our other car couldn’t hold all our kids, neighbors and school friends jumped right in to carpool our kiddos. When I’ve been overwhelmed during these three years of fostering we’ve had family and friends who have taken any combination of our children off of our hands for hours or days just so we could breathe. We’ve had flowers delivered after sad court verdicts. We’ve had friends donate their timeshare to our family as we grieved the first loss of Midge. We’ve had neighbors who’ve brought over a sandwich in the afternoon, asking if I’d eaten lunch yet today, and when I stopped to think, I realized I hadn’t. We’ve had meals delivered and bathrooms and kitchens cleaned by loving family members. And we’ve had SO MUCH PRAYER and babysitting and friendship that it overflows.

We’re in a “just hanging on” place again right now, and I know there have been so many people asking me how they can help. It’s a hard question to answer: I think I need a clone.

Because the foster kids just need healthy doses of Greg and I. They need to feel secure that we’re not going anywhere and that we love them all the time. They need to go through that toddler-aged clingy time of trust vs. mistrust because they’ve never gone through that with us, and perhaps not at all. They need us to be constantly available to them so they can be assured that we’re trustworthy, and in theory, that will help their negative behaviors decrease.

And guess what Jake and Tyler need: more of us, too! Surprise! Most families have a hard time balancing the needs of their traumatized kids with the needs of their biological kids, especially in the beginning, and we’re no different. While Jake and Tyler are securely attached, they do still need parenting and encouragement and time without the other kids and reassurance that we’re still there for them, too.

Plus we all need time with each other to bond. I’m trying to be more purposeful about seeking out activities that help me bond to E. And I’d like to be purposeful about finding activities that help Jake bond to E, also. So in my fantasy world, I’d love to be able to take Jake and E out to do something fun on a regular basis, just so that Jake can begin to associate pleasant feelings and memories with her.

And while all of this ‘being present’ and ‘patient with clinginess’ and ‘available for the kids’ and ‘manufacturing bonding opportunities’ (not to mention ‘dealing with mega-tantrums and other behaviors’) is happening, I do need to keep the house running and drive the kids to school and visits and cook and clean and make time for the therapy and social worker appointments and such.

But I realize that the last paragraph is the one part that I actually can delegate out. So I’m going to try it. Hopefully within the next couple of days I’m going to put together a list of particular ways that people can help our family. I’m thinking that if we can get just a little bit more help in the next six weeks, maybe we can make it to Christmas and feel a little more secure in our family relationships.

Stay Tuned for Part II: The List.