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Meaningful Questions to Ask at the Dinnertable

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I don’t know how things go in your family, but in ours between homework, ministries, meetings, guitar lessons, coffee dates, soccer games and just plain old everyday commitments, it can be stinkin’ hard to connect as a family. When Sam and I were first married we lived on his family farm which meant our lives and meal schedule revolved around the milking schedule. This meant that often times we weren’t eating dinner until nine o’clock and beyond. During this time we got into the nasty habit of eating in front of the TV before crawing into bed. This habit carried into the early years of raising our girls as well when it sounded so much nicer to eat and veg out once my two hooligans were tucked safely into bed and I could just relax. As they have gotten older, though, we realized we were missing valuable time to connect with our kids, sometimes the only time we actually got. We still some weeks only eat together as a family four or five nights out of seven, but that time is still vital for us to be connected in each other’s worlds. When we first started eating as a family I found myself often scolding the girls for fooling around or interrupting while their dad and I were trying to have a conversation, one that often excluded them and was above their comprehension. This was no good.

I searched Pinterest (ever the helpful resource) and find this idea of just adding each other questions during dinner.  I was skeptical, but decided to give it a try.  Two years ago I jotted down some questions and threw them in a jar. They ranged from “if you could be a dog for a day, what would you do?” To “if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?” These questions are great because they help us to dream together and be imaginative. As they have gotten older, though, every once in awhile I will throw in a new one that is more meaningful. I’ve been amazed to hear the answers the girls can come up with. These questions help them think and grow, but they’ve also challenged me as well! So here are a few examples:

1.Who is someone you can encourage tomorrow and how can you do that?

2. Name three things you are thankful for.

3. Name something you love about the person on your left.

4. What is something God has been teaching you.

5. Who is someone we can be praying for?

6. Who is someone you can talk to about Jesus this week?

7. What is something you can rejoice in today?

Then, of course, there are the sillier ones like this:

1. If you could be a zookeeper for the day, what would that look like?

2. Tell us about an embarrassing moment.

3. If you could have anything to eat right now, what would it be?

4. If you could be a polar bear for the day, what would you do?

5. If you could be anything, what would you be and why? (Nora told us one time she’d like to be a unicorn in a uniform, my favorite answer ever!).

Those are just a few of ours. What about you? What questions would you ask? What do you do to connect as a family?? I’d love to know on the comments!:)

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A Trip To Paris At Home

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Alright. I’m not gonna lie to you.  When we got the call yesterday morning at 6:30, I groaned. I did.  I’m pretty sure I whined shamelessly.  It went a little something like this: “Seriously?! Again?! AH! That is the fourth time in seven days. You’ve got to be kidding me!’

Yeeeeeeeeep.  Here in the snowman capital of the world we had ANOTHER snow day. Sheesh!  With subzero temperatures verging on fifteen below, I guess I can see why they thought it necessary to cancel again. But, really, could they have asked me first? I have orders I am behind on, not to mention dishes, housework and Downton Abbey!

Alas, though, I gave in and accepted that all of that would have to wait. Again.

A very sweet friend sent me some tea in the mail and I caught a glimpse of it sitting on the side table while aforementioned tantrum was transpiring. It was so charmingly called “Breakfast in Paris” tea. Ah! Breakfast in Paris, I thought to my little ol’ self. If only……

The best part of being a parent, in my opinion, is that I really don’t have to act like an adult all the time and I have a great excuse for it: I’m just being a good mom!! If I want to take the whole day and pretend that I am strolling the streets of Paris, shopping and visiting the Louvre and sitting in cafes admiring the Eiffel Tower, then by golly I will! You know….for the sake of the kids….

Here is the schedule for our day.  We started by listening to the “French Traditional” station on Pandora to set the mood. Then, I taught the girls the three French words I actually know: Bonjour, Au revoir, and Merci. Of course I used a very obnoxious and completely off accent all day and called the girls Mademoiselles.

We put the kettle on and used our finest china, pretending that we were taking our tea and breakfast in a street café.  We imagined it was sunny and warm and there were birds chirping (or at least I did. The girls kept contradicting me saying, “Nu-uh, Mom. There are no birds. It’s cold!”).

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Then we made crepes using this yummy recipe. I did add a little canned pumpkin for nutritional benefit as well. We filled them with jam and fresh fruit. We sipped tea and talked in accents and dreamed of a warm morning in Paris gazing at the Eiffel Tower.

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After breakfast we took a stroll down a street lined with blooming flowers (or really took a walk up to our second story bathroom) to the “salon” where we had French manicures and did our hair in French braids.

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Then, alas, because the house and messy kitchen sadly won’t clean itself we pretended to be French maids. The kids weren’t really buying it, but we had to stay in theme, right? 😉

Then we went “shopping” at the Le Petit Closet (again, insert me in French accent, “Oh yes! Dis is da finest Fraunch boutique in all of Par-ie.” And the girls groaning, “Mooooom. It’s our closet!!”) We put on our finest duds and put on a fashion show.  I draped a tablecloth over the door as a backdrop. Verrry hip this year on the Paris runway. Then we struck some serious and very chic poses. Do you see the pure diva sass I’m dealing with here, people?!

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Before lunch, we took virtual tours of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. They both have A-M-A-Z-I-N-G sites with 360degree views. On the Louvre’s site you can click on paintings and statues and such and get a larger view of them and information about them. You can see the museum room by room. I was IN LOVE! Je T’aime, Louvre! They also have a whole wing dedicated to Egyptian history which was a great opportunity to tell the girls about the ancient Egyptians and what they believed and how it differs from what we believe as Christians.  It turned into a little theological/Bible lesson. Bonus.

After all of that, we took a tour of local attractions via our very own, personal tour guide, Pinterest. Do you know there is a trampoline bridge over the Seine?!!! WHAT?!! That alone makes me want to visit the city of love for real!!! Did I say yet that I like to act like a kid sometimes?

 Then for lunch we had veeeeeeeeery authentic French cuisine: French (garbage) fries. Hey! I did crepes, alright?

Then we strolled to what I would like to pretend was an outdoor theater in the park and watched the movie “Madeline” (on Netflix).  It’s a story about a little French girl in Paris who is trying to save the girls’ home where she lives. Cute.

After the “theater” we had pumpkin lattes (DECAF!) with chocolate on a veranda overlooking the Seine river.

Then I about collapsed from exhaustion. Who knew touring Paris could be so tiring?

So I made the girls rest for a few minutes while I prepped for our next item on the venture.  I told them we would paint pictures of the Eiffel Tower (because, honestly, you can’t go to Paris and NOT do something artistic, right?). So I googled a silhouette of the Tower and then traced it onto a piece of watercolor paper. Then I used some handy dandy rubber cement and painted over the silhouette.

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You can also use art masking fluid but it is WAAAAAAAAY expensive and a bottle of rubber cement is only a couple of dollars and change and does the job nicely.  I told the girls to paint all over the paper in any colors they so desired.

While they worked I serenaded them because that’s what they would do in France, right? Artists need mood music to get the creative juices flowing. In this case, “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor because that’s pretty much all I know at this point.

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Then when it was done and all dried and the masterpieces were created, I took an artist’s eraser and rubbed off the rubber cement revealing the tower beneath it and voila (as the French would say).

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We ended the day with French onion soup for dinner (which I would not recommend. I don’t believe it’s really French or a favorite with kids). Lesson learned.

All in all, it was a pretty romantic day….for me at least! A couple of times Ev said, “This is the best day EVER!” So I think they enjoyed it as well.

Disclaimer: I do always like to have a reality check though, for those of you who might think this was all kittens and unicorns and kittens riding on unicorns and are tempted to be discouraged. It wasn’t all sunny. I did plenty of scolding in my French accent, the girls didn’t dig all of my ideas, and at one point I just threw my hands up and really scolded…in clear English….and SUPER loudly. It was fun, but not perfect, even in Paris!

Here is a FREE printable in case you feel inspired to do your own stay-cay vacay to Paris!

Revoir, mes amours!

paristicket

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Identity Theft: Being a Wife and Mom

identitytheft I stood beside my husband trying hard to maintain eye contact with the speaker with two little hands wriggling for freedom in mine. I had given them the speech before we went in: though I understood the temptation, they were not to ask for candy and needed to understand we were not there for them. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and ready to cry but knew it was important that I be there. So as I waited in one of those rooms, filled with mourners and smelling almost nauseatingly of chrysanthemums, we stood in line with others who came to pay their respects to the family of the man from our church who had recently passed away. I had never even actually met him because we haven’t been at our church all that long and for a lot of our time there he has been sick and unable to come. Still, I had spoken with his daughters and wanted them to feel loved and supported. I scanned the room and smiled, but as I saw the people approaching I inwardly groaned, because by now, I was well acquainted with this routine. People walked up to our girls and gushed over how beautiful they were and, “oh my, look at those dimples.” While I tried my very best to concentrate on what people were saying, the girls whined about when we were going to leave. My husband was introduced over and over to family from out of town as the associate pastor and father of these two charming and delightful children. I waited patiently.  Anytime now, surely someone would acknowledge me. But as I stood them, smiling politely, I was no more than a footnote on a page. When I was acknowledged at all, it was to be told what a wonderful husband I had and how blessed I was to be his wife. If introduced at all, I was nameless. Just an accessory, really, on my husband’s arm. I felt as important as the tie he was wearing. “This is his wife and his lovely yellow tie.” His wife. Pastor Sam’s wife and Evie and Nora’s mom. Nameless. Faceless.

The girls began to really get antsy, as little girls do in a funeral parlor filled with nothing to do but to try to wriggle free from their mother’s iron fist grip. After twenty minutes of “your husband is the best thing since cherry pie” and “oh. You are so lucky to have been blessed with such a husband and children. Count your lucky stars the heavens were smiling down on such a person (I’m sorry. What’s your name again? Yes. Yes. That’s right. Sam’s wife)” I gave up and let go of their hands. Before I knew it, they were trying to race each other down the hallway all the while I was trying to keep my attention on the funeral director who was shooting jokes at my husband left and right. I told them they needed to sit, which to them translated into jumping violently on the couch. The elder of the two smirked at me, knowing full well that my blood pressure was rising, which meant her fun was just starting. Through gritted teeth and a plaster smile I told them to sit quietly in chairs within arms reach of me. Once they had done so, the older one began to bounce in the chair, again to try to see if she could crack me. I really think this girl has a future in interrogation some day.  At this point, my head was throbbing, my feet were screaming, and my heart was drumming in my ears. I shot the girls that look that only mothers can give that says something like, “I love you but if you choose to cross me again I will sell you to the circus and make sure they give you a terrible job like cleaning up elephant poop and scraping gum off of bleachers and brushing the lion’s teeth…” A man from our church chose that moment to mosey on over to us and tell my girls how good they were and how sweet and charming and pretty they looked. Again, I was acknowledged only by a conspiratorial smile as if I would readily agree how well behaved they had been. The elder of the two flashed me her dimpled, smug grin that I know translates to her, “I win”. At that point I think my smile must have looked akin to one someone must have when they are sent to an insane asylum because her smile faded quickly. The gentleman from our church must have seen it, too, because he chose that moment, the first time I had been acknowledged as an individual the whole evening to say chidingly as he walked away over his shoulder to,” enjoy the journey. ”

Then I screamed. I did. I yelled that I, too, was trying to be thoughtful and considerate by being there and that it had been by my choice, not obligation. I shrieked that I did, in fact, have a name. When I was born to my two, lovely parents they did not put on the birth certificate “Sam’s wife”. I stomped my feet a little, threw some really poetic insults at the condescending comment, and stormed out of there, wives and moms around the world applauding me, my oldest daughter gawking at me and my husband giving a great speech to everyone about how I was the love of his life and what he, in fact, would be without me

…… In my head. That whole, lovely scene only played out in my head. What actually happened was I smiled again, politely, not really dignifying the comment with a response, then grabbed the girls by their hands, ushered them outside, put them in the van and lamented to my husband about how I have lost all identity as a mom and wife, how no one seemed to even see or acknowledge that I was even there, other than to scold me for not ” enjoying the journey “. I may as well have a name tag that says ” Hi. My name is wife and mom. ”

This idea of identity theft is sort of a recurring theme in my tales of woe, actually. Just yesterday I was crying to him about it again. I have people tell me all the time how incredible my husband is and how lucky I am to have him. Though I usually respond with a very sincere and hearty word of concurrence, it can also be discouraging, because though he has earned every single word of praise, I can’t even be introduced by my name if I’m introduced at all. When I begin my lamenting it usually sounds a little something like this: I feel like a job. I am the packer of lunches, the finder of socks, the kisser of boo boos, the maker of meals, the comforter, the cheerleader, the team mascot, the folder of laundry, the discipliner, the cleaner….. You get the idea. I’m rarely even called by my name. I’m, “Moooooooooooooom!!!!” most of the time. There are so many days when I sit back and wonder how it came to this. How did I lose all sense of who I am as a person and become a job? When did I become so faceless and nameless? When did I become nothing more than arm candy for my husband and a convenience to my children? If I’m honest, some days I can be downright resentful of my family, because, in the spirit of being totally candid, so much time spent being a mom you are undervalued. You are taken for granted and abused. In fact, there can be an attitude that you should be cleaning up after them, cooking for them, and taking them where they need to go. And my husband, who truly is this amazing man and great spouse, can’t meet all of my needs all the time and can get wrapped up in work or coaching soccer, because, despite popular belief, he really is only human and the poor guy can only do so much. So he can’t always see that I am drowning sometimes in loneliness and frustration. I heard once that when people were polled, what they wanted most was to be appreciated. I also read this somewhere: you know you don’t appreciate someone when you think it’s their job to do anything for you.

A pet peeve of mine is to go to a restaurant and see people treat the service there like their own personal slaves. My mom used to be a waitress and I only know a fraction of how hard that really was on her to be on her feet all night, dashing to fill orders, to be hit on by drunken men, to have people yell at her because their steak wasn’t prepared to their liking though it was no fault of her own, to work for crummy tips, all with a smile plastered on her face. But I have been out with friends and witnessed some of them treat our servers in this way, making snarky comments, ignoring them when they check on our table, and not offering any word of gratitude and say something like, “They’re getting paid for it.” As if passing them a lousy tip gives you the right to treat them any way you want.

OK. I digressed a bit. But here is my point: Just because someone has a job it doesn’t give anyone the right to treat them as less than human. As a means to an end. A job. Hence my point. As a wife and especially as a mom it so often feels like I have lost all sense of self and feel underappreciated. My children, as I did to my own parents, don’t get how much I sacrifice for them on a daily basis, and honestly, I don’t expect them to until they have kids of their own.

As I have been sitting here writing, I wanted to tie this up with a nice little bow; a word of encouragement and enlightenment to those who are struggling like me, most days just trying to keep my head above water and sanity in tact. So here it is, my incredible words of wisdom: you’re not alone. When I talk to my friends, most of ’em feel the exact same way. Being a mom is tough. Sometimes being a wife, even if you’re married to a really great guy like I am, can be really tough, because all of a sudden you wake up one day and realize that you have lost so much of who you used to be. I think I used to be fun (I think??). I used to be spontaneous and go out swing dancing. I used to hang out with my friends on weekends and NOT talk about kids. I used to be the interesting girl across the room that you wanted to get to know better. I used to have a name.

My mom recently handed me a folder full of all these papers, mementos of things I created as I grew up: report cards, pictures, essays. I came across one essay I had written as an introductory paper for a creative writing class. It was titled “Mirror of my Life.” As I read it,I was reminded of the girl who wrote it. She talked about her dreams and ambitions, her frivolous activities. She talked about making up skits when she was all alone, talking in different accents and dreaming of a life on stage, perhaps.  She talked about her fears and hopes and the world that was wide open before her. At seventeen, anything seemed possible. As I read those words, I missed that girl.  I missed the girl who was carefree and laid back, who spent her free time writing poetry and daydreaming and reading books.  Then as I read further, I caught a truer glimpse of her, reading between the lines: a girl who dreamed of being married and having kids.  She was a girl who prayed for and laid awake at night dreaming of and writing letters to the husband she couldn’t wait to meet.  She was a girl who was at times lonely with the ambition to have her own family someday, lonely in the waiting. Then I was reminded of the girl who just a few years later married a man beyond her dreams when she was so young, but who cried herself to sleep so many nights and sat in lonely corners during the day aching to hold a baby of her own. For years, she sat and prayed and waited, empty in heart and womb. Then I am reminded of the person I am now, living out those very dreams written down on the paper in my hands. After that, I come to pity the girl on the paper because though she may have had much less responsibility, she had much less to be thankful for.

So here it is: my secret to sanity when I feel like I’m fading into absolute oblivion, because, as with all things in life, it usually comes down to perspective. I will take a few thoughtless comments from people who can’t see what I do, though I know I do them. I will take not being introduced properly to so-and-so’s second cousin twice removed who I will never see or remember again in my life.  I will take the forgetfulness, being taken for granted, and yes-being walked on at times, because even on the most exhausting of days I wouldn’t trade this life or what this girl has for anything in the world.

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I have a Confession…

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Hi. My name is Courtney, and I have a confession to make.

I am married to this really great guy. No, really…

For the last twelve years I have had the privilege of waking up next to him, and so many of those mornings I have laid there, listening to his breathing and thanked God again for giving me such a great, patient husband.

When he wants to watch a basketball game and I want to watch a chick flick, the romantic comedies always win out. When the puppy whimpers in the middle of the night ( MY puppy that he got me for a Christmas present) he stumbles out of bed to let him out. When I have had another throbbing headache, he ushers me to the bathroom and runs me a bath. He does homework with the kids, gets take-out so I don’t have to cook, pays our bills, surprises me with chocolates, sets time aside in his schedule every week for our Thursday morning coffee date, schedules sitters so we can go out sometimes, listens to me babble endlessly about a rough day, picks up dog poop in the backyard, works around the house, puts up with my projects, takes care of me when I’m sick, calls me to see how I am doing, takes the kids home from school so I don’t have to, comes home every day so we can have lunch together, works hard for us everyday….yeah. He does all that, and that’s really just the short list.

You know the most amazing thing about him? He never complains about me. He never says mean things to me.  He comes home to me every day. He is totally devoted to me.

Here’s the real confession: sometimes, I am a horrible wife.  No-scratch that. OFTEN, I am a horrible wife.  When our girls have whined about how they can’t find their shoes or don’t want to make their beds, or when they have complained for what feels like the umpteeth time about what I have made them for breakfast, lunch OR dinner, or when I have gotten a bad report from school because one of them was talking back to the teacher, stealing, lying or hitting (among other things), or when the dog has peed on the floor or chewed up one of my favorite things or made muddy prints on a freshly washed floor or thrown up cat poop, my poor husband gets the brunt of it of my wrath.  He gets the cold shoulder, the rolled eyes, the gritted teeth, the brush off just for asking what is the matter. He has been known to stay and be late to work or come home in the middle of the day just to work things out with me.

Just today, after I reared my ugly, neck-contorting in attitude head at him after lots of the above kicked off our day, he dropped kids off (they go to school at the church he works at) and instead of staying, he went and bought me replacements to the things our puppy, Burton, had chewed up in the middle of the night (after which when discovered, I slammed doors and angrily hopped into bed throwing blankets and all those other mature things just so Sam knew how mad I was).

I know. I don’t get it either.

But here is one thing that I do know: my husband, Sam, loves God wholeheartedly. Sometimes I stand back and just marvel at his love and devotion, not just to me and our girls, but to God.  He radiates humility and kindness. He is a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy, and people flock to him in droves.  He is amazing, and so many days I ask God why He chose Sam for me. For me.  How is that possible?

I want so much to begin to deserve the love and devotion t hhes for me. It goes so far beyond my comprehension that some days (okay, again, MOST days) I find myself pushing him away and rejecting him in some twisted attempt to let him see that he deserves better than me; so much, much better than me. And sometimes, sadly, in my pride, it’s to show that I don’t need him to rescue me from ornery kids or mischievous pups because I (clearly-ha!) can handle it on my own.

Then I remember something. We are to be a picture of Christ to those around us.  I am so thankful that Sam doesn’t seem to forget that very often.  He is a picture of Christ to me every single day.

We love because He first loved us. (I John 4:19). I’m not capable of loving anyone else apart from Christ. I love, because He first loved me. If this is true for me, I know it must be true of everyone, even nonbelievers. Christ loves us all, despite how abusive we are or how we reject him. Don’t we all do this, believers and nonbelievers alike? Don’t we try to push God away in some attempt to show that we don’t need Him or don’t deserve His love?  One of those things is very true, while the other is very much not.

Though I need God, I have done nothing to deserve His love and devotion to me. I have done nothing to deserve Him to promise He will never leave me or forsake me (do you know that in the original language it translates to say, “no never” something like six times?). Why in the world would God, the one who set all of creation into motion with a single command, think of me; love me; be devoted to me?! It baffles and greatly humbles me to even consider and drops me to my knees.

I am so proud to be Sam’s wife. I am so thankful to be married to a man who loves God so much. I know, though I can try, I don’t deserve this wonderful man God has chosen for me, and I certainly don’t begin to deserve the love of God.  As much as I love Sam and as much as he miraculously loves me, in our humanity, we can’t begin to fathom or express the kind of love God has for us.

So I have one more confession to make. I am deeply in love, twice over.

After twelve years of marriage, I am still hopelessly in love with my husband, and after 29 years of knowing Christ as my Savior, I am desperately in love with Him. And each day, I fall more in love with both of them, not because of who I am or because of anything I have done to deserve this love, but because of selfless love shown to me every day.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17b-19)

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

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I made this card in my shop with the Song of Solomon quote. It says on the inside , “It’s you” 🙂

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Valentine’s Day L-O-V-E

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(you can order this print for your special Valentine)

Don’t you just love Valentine’s Day? Being a huge romantic at heart, I love to find the romance in every day. I admit I do have this pretty incredible husband (and incredible is kind of a huge understatement), but even if I didn’t, romance is painted all around us, we just have to look. I found it in my cup of coconut, mango oolong tea this morning that warmed me from top to bottom on a snot-freezing morning. I found a bit of romance in the warm slippers and cozy sweater I put on this morning. I found it in the sloppy kisses and bear hugs I got from two squirmy little girls this morning. I found it in the stillness of my home once everyone left and I had two faithful dogs laying at my feet and one orange cat sprawled on the bed beside me. And, if you are anything like me, I found it in the ideas just bursting out of my head for little projects I can do this week; quilts to be made, valentine’s day boxes to be fashioned, treats to be baked, and love to be spread through creative process! Here are a few projects I am thinking of working on this week:

1.Doggie in Tutu Valentine’s Day box

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2. Heart Tarts

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3.Heart quilt

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What projects do you plan to do for Valentine’s day? Do tell!! 

 

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Adoption Etiquette

Image It happened. Again.  We were out it public and we stand out like a sore thumb.  Two very white people with two very obviously not white girls who look the same age but not the same like twins.  We always draw attention to ourselves no matter where we go.  For the most part I have to admit it’s good attention, people seeming to want to reassure us how much they accept our family and our part we contribute to society despite our obvious differences from the traditional, American, nuclear family.  Still, people seem to think that because our children are adopted they can ask us any questions they want, personal or not.  So the question was asked (again), “Are your girls sisters?” I knew of course what she was asking, but I just smiled and said politely, “Yes, of course they’re sisters.”  She looked at me blankly, then looked back at the girls who were playing nearby, shook her head and asked again, “No, I mean are they real sisters.”  My heart thudded in my chest and I automatically glanced over at Ev and Nora to see if they had heard this question. “They aren’t biological sisters, no, but they are sisters,” I smiled, knowing this girl didn’t mean any harm, she was just curious.  A woman overhearing nearby joined in the conversation and started talking about how lucky our girls were to have us and how it was horrible that people could just abandon their children like that and how she heard of a woman who……you know where this is going. I’m sure you’ve heard things like this before. Maybe you have even said them yourself.  I squirmed and tried to take a few steps away from my girls, hoping these women would follow suit and I tried to talk softly so I could protect my girls a little longer from what the world seemed to assume they already knew.  I smiled again and said as gently as I could, “Well, I’m thankful for them because if they didn’t exist I wouldn’t have my children,” and tried to politely excuse myself from the conversation.

I will never forget a few months ago a very similar conversation with someone else I didn’t know very well who asked the same questions in front of my children.  When forced, again, I said, no, they were not “real” sisters.  That night, when I was tucking Evie into bed, she looked at me with a heartbreaking expression and I nearly cried. “Mom, why did you say we weren’t real sisters?” Her sweet little voice quavered and it was one of those moments as a parent where you want desperately to shield your children from all the hurt this world is going to dish out to them and you know it isn’t possible.  It was a moment that gnawed away at my heart.

We go over this all. The. Time.

I know so many people mean so well and are just curious when they ask these questions or say these things.  Honestly, if I hadn’t adopted our girls, I would have no idea, either, what adopted families go through.  That’s why I decided to write this to try to make the world at large understand what adopting is really like.  I am really, really sensitive about it. I don’t think the people who are closest to me even realize how sensitive I am about it.  I can’t tell you how many stupid movies or TV shows I have watched where there was an adopted child who wanted nothing to do with their family (what I like to call their real family) and wanted to find their biological family because they knew that was where they really belonged and the happy ending was that the adoptive family was left in the dust, portrayed as kidnappers who tore them away from their “real” families.  I have sobbed myself to sleep so many times after watching that garbage, making myself sick with worry that someday my children will turn on me and say I’m not their real mom. This fear haunts me most days. Don’t get me wrong, I understand wanting to search out your biological family.  We have talked a lot about wanting to help our kids through that if that is a desire they have some day. Don’t misunderstand me. That’s not what I’m talking about.  I just want people to understand that some of us ARE threatened by the biological family. I know this is taboo and something that we are not supposed to admit to, but I am.  I know these are my children, but if the world keeps saying they’re not, will they grow up to believe that, too??

I remember dating this guy in high school who had 2 adopted siblings and 2 biological ones and saying something like, (this makes me so ashamed to admit this) “At least they aren’t your real siblings.” To which he was properly horrified and refused to speak to me for saying something so absurd and insensitive.  But that is what I am talking about. That misunderstanding that our family is any different than anyone else’s. So I wanted to sort of make a “to say” and “not to say” sort of list to help you out in case you ever make these kind of blunders.  Without realizing it, people are really hurtful.  Don’t be one of them.

1. Don’t ever ask about the “real” family, especially in front of the kids. I think I have very thoroughly covered why. My kids are so young, now, they don’t understand a lot. We are as candid with them as we feel necessary but I don’t want to discuss in front of them why their birth parents either decided to put them up for adoption or weren’t able to be parents. Keep in mind we love our children as our own flesh and blood and feel the need to protect them as such. I had a neighbor who was so loving to the girls who would shower them with gifts and be so kind to them, so much so I was floored one day when he said to me very flippantly while speaking about the deviant behavior of someone else, “Well, he wasn’t even his real son. He was adopted…”  suggesting that the father of this boy shouldn’t have even put up with him because he wasn’t his “real” son.

I want to say that I believe fully in the sovereignty of God and I don’t think He said, “Hmmm…Courtney couldn’t have children..let me see…who can I put…ah yes! Perfect! There’s two children….let me arrange this…” No. I believe since before there was time He called those children to be mine, just like He called me as His own. No doubt about it.

Also, as a note to this please, please PLEASE do not rant about biological families, whether real or conjured up in your imagination.  It really only hurts my children. Please save this for a private conversation, if you really feel necessary to say this at all.  Keep in mind that children come from all places and sometimes it truly is the most loving thing a mother or father can do to put their child up for adoption.

2. Don’t think you can ask anything about the adoption, especially publicly or in front of the children. People seem to think because your children are adopted that anything is fair game.  I don’t mind telling friends our story privately over tea, but even then I try not to get into personal details until I am comfortable with them and I know I can trust them. Our adoption and the process that it took to get there was long and painful. I can’t even begin to tell you how much we went through to end up where we are, so please, please tread carefully. Think of it this way, no one asks you the intimate details of how you had your children and what happened to bring that about. No one will ever say to you, “So, you went upstairs to the bedroom….then what happened?”  It’s still just as personal, just in a different kind of way.

3. A lost adoption is exceptionally painful.  This one is very important because people don’t understand this either. I had a friend who said to me, “What is your problem? Another one will come along.”  We were expecting to adopt this little boy, but his birth mother chose another home for him a week before her due date. We found out later he was back in the system.  I made him a quilt, painted his nursery, we had a shower for him, we named him.  I still only say his name to my husband and I can barely speak it to him.  It is sacred to me; it is mine. The only time I say his name is when I pray to God asking him to take care of him wherever he is.  In my heart, he is my son.  I know his birthday and grieve it every year, knowing he is a year older and I am missing it. Please be sensitive to this.  Even now, I can write about this, but I can’t talk about it.

4. Adoption is NOT the easy way. Yep-heard this a lot, too. Let me give you an idea of what it’s like just in case you might be under this false impression:  to start the process you go through months of classes, paperwork, background checks and scrutiny.  The irony is that so many adoptions happen because irresponsible teenagers thought they were in love or someone had a one night stand, but if they chose to keep the baby, no one would question their ability to love and raise it; no one would come into their home with a checklist to make sure your house was safe or invade your privacy or dig up old wounds just to make sure you were suited for the job. I understand all of the red tape, I really do. I am even thankful for it and understand how fully necessary it is. Still, understand it is a long, grueling, exhausting, invasive process.  Then, you wait. And you wait. And you wait.  We are thankful for us it only took a few months after losing our boy, but a lot of people wait for years.  Then after you bring your precious child home, you are heartsick for months wondering if the birth parents will decide they changed their mind.  Then, after you have your court hearing and everything is finalized, people come to your home every week for months to make sure you are a good parent.  There are payments, trips, costs that drain your life-savings that no insurance will cover. Then, the real agony starts, because once you have sewn your heart permanently to this child that you love as your own, there is that nagging fear that someday you will have to tell them the real truth that will hurt them deeply about why their biological parents couldn’t keep them and fear they will deny you as their own.  You fear they will one day go looking for that family and find that there isn’t sunshine at the end of that rainbow, but only deep heartache.  One more thing you can’t protect your child from.

I feel like I could go on and on about why adoption is NOT the easy way to go, but I don’t want to deter anyone from doing it. But this list I gave you is just scratching the surface.

5. If you adopted because you couldn’t have children on your own, that pain will still always be there.  This is something else I know people aren’t aware of.  I am so thankful I get to be a mom, no matter how God chose to make that happen for me. Still, not being able to conceive on our own was a deep, deep pain that can’t be described until you have experienced it for yourself. Please be sensitive about this, too. Does this mean I want another baby right now? Heck no! But it’s just like any past hurt. I have a friend who lost her house in a fire.  She has a new, beautiful house, but the pain of losing the old one is still very fresh for her.  It’s the same kind of thing.  Just like any loss, the pain is forever etched on your heart. I dread baby showers and my heart sinks every time I hear the news of someone else getting pregnant. Though I can rejoice with them, it still is painful. This is also something I don’t want to talk about to a new acquaintance or stranger at the store, though many have tried to pry it out of me.  I don’t know why people don’t know how personal this is, but in case you are one of those people let me say, don’t ask unless you know someone really, really well, and even then please proceed with delicate caution.

6. Please do not tell me I am so wonderful for adopting these children and how I saved them from a horrendous life in front of my children. I appreciate a word of encouragement as much as the next person. I crave it sometimes, in fact. This, however, is really not appropriate in front of my children.  I am not really a hero for adopting these children. It was a great desire in our heart to do this, out of a deep longing to be parents but also because we felt led by God to do so.   Also, because we know the history of their birth parents and we may have saved them from a lot of heartache, I still don’t want my children questioning me about that until they are ready.  I have had well-meaning nursery workers, people at church, acquaintances and strangers at the grocery store all tell me this.  It would be like if someone came up to your spouse in front of you and said, “Wow! That was so kind of you to marry her/him. They are so lucky to have you.  Imagine what would have happened to them if you hadn’t.” This is word for word what I hear all the time. Though I really do appreciate the sentiment behind it, please, again, be sensitive to the feelings of my children

7. We don’t want to be treated as any more or any less for having adopted children.  I might be beating a dead horse, now, but I want to clarify this in case I haven’t been clear: we want to be treated the same as anyone else!! We took my daughter to have some tests run the other day and at the doctor’s office they refused to see her until we produced solid evidence that we were her “real” parents. There’s that nasty word again. Let’s just make this a general rule: leave that word out of your vocabulary altogether when talked with or about adoptive families. Anyway, the woman at reception was patronizing, if not condescending to us. I gawked at the woman and child in the waiting room with me who only moments before produced nothing more than an insurance card to prove she was the child’s mother.  Is this really a popular trend now with kidnappers?? They take their kidnappees to get EKG’s? Anyway, after doing a little dance for this woman and making phone calls, the necessary paperwork was promptly faxed over by the good people at our adoption agency who said to me, “Really? They need this now after you adopted them six years ago?” I appreciated her support. To  her credit, the receptionist was very apologetic once the papers went through. Can I ask, though, please, that you not make assumptions about me because my children are a different color than me on the spot? This is the negative side of this whole issue. We have gotten the stares, the dirty looks, but for the most part people are so supportive that they give us too much attention as well. We just want to be viewed as a “normal” family! To us, we are!!

This is not to reprimand anyone, because people have been so kind and gracious to us. This has been on my heart for awhile.  It’s to make people aware because I think they ask these things to show they care. I really, really, really believe that!!  I’m not saying not to ask because I don’t mind when people ask, I just want you to understand the weight of what you ask sometimes.