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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!

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An Apology Letter to My Husband

 

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My dearest husband,

I want to apologize for so many things, I’m not even sure where to start.

I want to apologize for the many days you come home and I give you less than a backwards glance and grudging kiss, barely acknowledging the quickly diminishing smile on your face.  I want to apologize for the days you walk in the door after a grueling day of caring for other people’s needs and I unload on you all that has gone wrong during the day, forgetting to even ask about your own.  I’m sorry for sharing every burden of my heart, real and conjured up and somehow expect you to fix them all with the right look, the proper words I rehearsed for you in my head, the perfectly timed solutions that I have prepared in my own heart for you to do. I want to apologize to you for the expectations that I tie around your back on any given day that no man should be expected to bear.

I’m sorry for agonizing about what you think of me.  You have never even hinted that you weren’t content in who I am, despite my flaws in person and appearance.  I’m sorry for filling the blanks in in my own head assuming you think things you don’t. I’m sorry for all of the times I took offense so easily because love, true love, doesn’t do that.

Please forgive me, my sweet husband.

Because do you remember, my love? Do you remember how thirteen years ago I panicked? I could barely get out of bed let alone walk down an aisle where you would be waiting for me. Fear gripped me and wrapped around my heart, debilitating and cruel. I didn’t want to go through with it. Do you remember how I worried that I wasn’t and never would be good enough for you? Of course you do, because I still worry. The fear still clings to me and refuses to let go. Because you see, perfect love casts out fear. If I loved you more; true, honest, sacrificial love that seeks not it’s own, love that has no room for selfish ambition or vain conceit,  and worshipped you less, then maybe the fear would dispel.

And that is my greatest regret: I worship you. I love you as I didn’t know I could love another person.  You are better than my greatest dream of who you would be. I admire and respect you more greatly than anyone I have ever known. When I see you worship our God, when I hear you speak words of wisdom, grace and compassion, and when I think of your faithfulness to me and to God, I am in wonder again as to how God put us together. As your wife, I am ridiculously proud of you and to be the one who stands beside you until death parts us. I am so very blessed in you.

Still, I’m so sorry. I have put a weight on you that was never intended to be yours to bear.  We have said it often in our home and remind each other of it frequently, still I somehow missed it all this time in relation to you and me: we worship our way into sin and we have to worship our way out of it.

I have made you an idol. I have asked too much of you, forgetting where my true worship needs to be directed. In you, I too often worship the creation more than the Creator.

The other night, under a glorious sky sprinkled with stars standing on a blanket of fresh snow, I missed it.  I missed the glory of God all around me.  I missed an opportunity to take a breath, fall to my knees and worship my Creator and author of salvation because I was looking to you.  You were innocently doing your own thing and I was sinfully cursing you for forgetting me. And I missed it. I missed an opportunity to bask in the glory of God displayed in all of His creation, including you and the girls.  All of His creation should inspire worship of God and Him alone. It was never intended to be an object of worship.

So, my love, please forgive me. Forgive me for putting you in a position you never asked for or desired.  Forgive me for looking to you to meet all of my needs because that’s not what God ever intended in marriage.  Our marriage is to be a picture of Christ and His perfect love; love that casts out all fear: fear of punishment, wrath, of death. We are to help each other, encourage each other and constantly be pointing each other to Christ, not replacing Him with each other. I have done that and regret it greatly.

I ask your forgiveness.  All the times I’ve manipulated or thrown a pity party or just a tantrum, protected myself and pushed you away, it was all because I’ve been worshipping you.  So I’m asking you to forgive me and that in this life God has sewn together for us, this wonderful, chaotic, beautiful life, that in our home, in our marriage, we would be committed together to worshipping God and God alone.

I love you.

Me

“…Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”(Joshua 24:15)

 

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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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There’s No Place Like Home (A Home Tour)

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I just saw this quote on Pinterest today by Jane Austen; “There’s nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” Being a homebody myself and a desperate Jane Austen fan, I fell in love and decided to make a print of it myself.

Today, as Spring days often are, is dreary, rainy, and romantically cozy. I find that my house is sprinkled with comfort and all things romantic as I walk through it. I wanted you to take a walk through it with me. DSCF1880

As I walked up the steps toward my attic office, I caught a glimpse of our cat, Picky-Picky sprawled out lazily upon our guestroom bed. I picked up this bedspread at an antique shop tucked away in a quaint little town while on vacation. The curtains draped haphazardly over this antique bed (found for a steal for $75 at a local flea market just down the street) were made from sheets found at Salvation Army.

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Next door is our girls’ room, papered with scrapbook sheets with paper stars dangling above the bed. Sometimes, when I tuck the girls away into bed at night, we pretend they are real stars and the ceiling is a night sky full of wonder and shooting stars.

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Then there is my room, painted a delicious, buttery yellow, complete with three windows that stream the sun through it. Even on a dreary day like today, it is bathed in luxurious light. The four post bed was crafted by my grandfather a quarter of a century ago and makes me feel ridiculously spoiled. It is high and soft and romantic. It is accented with bird pillows and a throw quilt, both crafted by yours truly, and is piled high with quilts acquired from different places, but my favorite being the one on top that was tucked away in my grandmother’s antique chest made by a relative long ago. As you can see, we, too, have stars above our bed. I am quite obsessed with paper stars.

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This vintage tray is one of my proudest finds, picked up at an estate sale for a few cents that sits on a shelf in our bathroom, topped with lotions and potions.

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When we first took a tour of our house when we were looking to buy, I nearly melted on the floor when I caught sight out this fireplace. It’s flanked by fluted pillars and has a built-in mirror that gives the room depth.  Do you see them? I told you I was obsessed with paper stars!

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This is our little breakfast nook, tucked into a corner of our kitchen. Can you tell I like vintage style? We got this table (that has two sides that pop out) and chairs all for $30 at an estate sale. Estate sales are my absolute favorites for the best finds!

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Seriously? Is there anything more romantic on a cold or dreary day than a hot cup of tea in a pretty tea cup? Most of these were my great grandmother’s. Aren’t they lovely?

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Along with paper stars, I am obsessed with birds (did you notice them on the pillows on my bed?). My dear, sweet mother knows this. This is Vivian, as I have fondly named her, given to me by my mom.

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….as was this one, which dangles nicely from the china cabinet in our dining room.

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Our reading nook, tucked between our stairs and living room, is papered with wallpaper I found for a dollar a roll at Micheal’s. I am quite fond of it.

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Aren’t they handsome? Perhaps one of the coziest of coziness on a dreary day are my two pals, Burton and Henry, that keep my company while the girls and Sam are away. Look at those faces!

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Lastly, this is the hope of things to come! This was taken in our backyard at the end of summer last year. This picture doesn’t do anything in it justice. Those zinnias and forget-me-nots brought me such joy! They were absolutely breath-taking. And that cute little girl in rubber boots watering flowers? Words cannot describe how cozy she is to cuddle!

So that is a glimpse into my cozy home! More to come later…….

xo

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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!! 

 

2

Mama Drama

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I placed my fingers to my temples and rubbed, trying to ease away the rhythmic throbbing in my head as my oldest daughter bounded from the sink (where she splashed water all over the counter and mirror while making faces at herself) to the hand dryer.  The fact that she was skipping only intensified my annoyance. “Let’s go!” I didn’t, but nearly shouted at her. Undaunted, she did a little dance while she dried her hands off.  I ignored the stares from the woman washing her hands and almost groaned as I saw her approach. Here it comes, I thought grudgingly to myself.

She nearly stooped over, as though I was an unruly child who needed a good talking to from a much older and wiser adult, and said, with that ever-so-subtle condescending pitch, “You need to appreciate this now. They grow up so fast.” At this point, I would normally plaster a smile on my face and say something like, “Oh yes, you are so right. Thank you for the reminder,” and go about my merry way, clenching my jaw the whole time. Instead, I ignored her. Yep. I looked at her, grabbed my daughter’s hand and stalked away very rudely, all the while thinking, “Which part of this am I supposed to enjoy, you know-nothing busy body?” (Which, I’m really not proud of).

Maybe she meant the part about my daughter whining the entire time we were in the store, bouncing between trying to pull things off the shelf and tormenting her sister.  Maybe she was talking about the part where my daughter sung at the top of her lungs just so my husband and I couldn’t carry on a conversation and she wanted to control us because that’s what she does. Maybe she meant I was supposed to appreciate the part where my child asked for everything, not because she truly wanted it, but simply because I had told her not to ask for anything.  Maybe she meant I was supposed to enjoy the fact that I was on a time crunch, but my daughter whined so loudly and fiercely that she “needed to go potty” that I spent fifteen extra minutes I didn’t have searching the store I wasn’t familiar with for a bathroom while she complained the whole time that she wasn’t going to make it. Maybe she meant I was supposed to love the fact that once I raced her into the bathroom, she took her sweet time getting settled on the toilet only to produce nothing more than three drops.  Perhaps she was suggesting that I appreciate the fact that I know my daughter was skipping, singing and dancing in victory, knowing she had won the battle over me since we both knew she didn’t need to go to the bathroom at all.  Was that what she meant?  When she stooped over me, practically wagging a condescending finger at me, and told me that I “needed to appreciate this now”, was this possibly what she meant?

I could feel it building inside of me; that pressure that felt like a two ton elephant was sitting on my chest.  My head was pounding, I was white-knuckle gripping the steering wheel, I was working my jaw and clenching my teeth, I was answering incessant questions from the backseat with brisk responses. I knew it was coming; the hurricane, and I couldn’t stop it.  Yes, there was that little voice lying to me that said, “Just ignore your feelings, ignore your child and everyone will come out of this alive.” I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw my child’s smug face. It sounds paranoid, but if you knew her, you would know exactly what I am saying. She gets delight out of sowing discord in our home, and is absolutely giddy when she knows she has gotten to me. So I gritted my teeth, grabbed bags furiously from the trunk, slammed it, and stomped to the house, not even caring if the girls were following or not. The whole time that lady’s voice was in the back of my head like bullets being fired into my heart, as if what she really said was, “Failure! What kind of mother are you that you can’t see how precious this delightful, clearly happy and pleasant gift from above this child is?” Her words didn’t spur on reflection to which I said, “Whoa! You just blew my mind! Yes! Thank you for that clarity of thought. Now I can go on with my day and rejoice when my child manipulates me and makes it feel like a locomotive is careening through my head.Now I will do a little jig and say a prayer of thanks when she tries to make the day miserable just because she can.”  It just made things worse.

I can’t even tell you what happened next, because I know it doesn’t really matter. I was a bull seeing red and all I needed was a small flash of color, something minute so I almost had an excuse to charge. I can’t tell you what it was because I’m sure it wasn’t significant, but it was enough to send me over the edge. It was the straw that broke an exhausted, guilt-ridden, angry mama camel’s back. I let loose. The demons were unleashed. I was a mass of white heat and rage.

Yeah-I said it. Rage.

That nasty, taboo word that isn’t supposed to be part of a mother’s vocabulary, let alone her persona. But let’s call a spade a spade. I was raging mad. I was out of control of my emotions and nothing was going to stop me, especially not this stubborn child who stood in front of me, and didn’t cower at my anger, but starred it down with challenging defiance. I lost it; I screamed. Let me clarify this so we’re all on the same page. I didn’t yell or raise my voice. I screamed. It was shrill, it was loud, it was ear-piercing. My throat was sore and scratchy afterwards. I didn’t even recognize it. I lost all control. I could feel my heart racing so fast that it squeezed and pulsed like someone was gripping it with an iron fist. I was shaking violently. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was scary, not only to my children, but to me.

I would like to say this was an isolated incident. It wasn’t. It doesn’t happen every day or even all the often, but it happens and it never ceases to surprise or frighten me, because sometimes I feel the build-up like this particular day, but other times I’m blindsided by it. We can actually have a pretty good day, but a long fit (this same child can throw a fit lasting 1-2 hours, crying so hard that she makes her nose bleed and will pound on the floor so violently the dishes rattle in the cupboards) can send me into a blind rage.

How do I feel afterwards? Well, let’s just say I’m not feeling too good about myself (um, yeah-huge understatement). I beat myself up for days and find myself trying to talk to friends and family, someone who can give me a good answer on how to handle not only my child but myself.  Often, I am met with a blank, sometimes horrified stare, as though I have just grown an arm out of the side of my face.

I’m a “deep thinker” which mostly means I analyze every minute detail of my life to death, mostly my relationships. I want to know why things happen and how to fix them and why my life isn’t one big Hallmark commercial. How can I have dreamed for so long about having kids and loving them to death every moment of every day and still go from zero to fifty in a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds? I’m also trying to figure out if I’m the only one who ever experiences this because no one wants to talk about it. I’m writing this actually piggy-backing off an article I saw recently discussing this subject. I was actually shocked to hear another mother talk candidly about how she has struggled with rage because no one seems to want to talk about it. People seem to want to give “the right answer” and try to put a band-aid over a gaping wound and say things like, “You need to just appreciate this”. Does that help anyone?

I’m using this poor woman as a scapegoat when I know she really did in some way mean to be helpful, even if it was poorly timed. My point in writing this is not to even point out what she said, but to emphasize how we get to this point as parents where we just explode. Am I truly alone in this? Do other mothers ever cross that line from losing their tempters to losing total control? Is the problem me, or is it just that my kids are so difficult? I honestly had never experienced true rage before six years ago when we brought our daughters home. I was pretty much the same as the woman in the bathroom, shaking my head and pointing my finger at those frazzled moms who lost it on their children. I didn’t get it. Does it make it right? No. Heck no. But, I still think it would help if we could talk about it, if we could all admit that we aren’t alone.  When I have tried to talk to people for help and they are become tight-lipped, or when I meet someone in the store who has a “word of wisdom” for me, it doesn’t help, but seems to compound the problem. Can we stop pointing fingers and learn how to support each other as struggling parents? I think as moms we are all equipped with built-in guilt thermometers, and as the guilt rises, the build up of pressure rises until we explode.

My husband and I talked about this just today after I sat in the car with him and cried, pouring out to him all my motherly woes. As we talked we both reminded each other of this profound truth so easily forgotten: if we aren’t willing to accept grace for ourselves, we are inept to give it to each other.  In my life, this seems no more real in my life than when it comes to being a parent. When I spend the whole day beating myself up for things I forgot, things I should’ve said (or more likely things I shouldn’t have said), ways I failed, and obsessing about the girls’ behavioral issues, by the time they come home from school, I’m almost resentful of them. I’m already prepared to do battle with them. The grace of God says, “Erased, forgiven. It’s over.” We even have taught the kids that. They sometimes in their little hearts feel the need to do penance for something long after we have talked about it and moved on. They will still apologize two or three more times until I give them to reassurance that, “It’s over. It’s done. I forgave you. We don’t need to talk about it anymore.” I have seen a very visible weight lifted off their shoulders when I free them from the guilt of what they have done.  They are lighter on their feet, they are more affectionate, reconciliation has been restored and it is so freeing. So why, when we are trying so desperately to teach our kids the grace of God, do we not accept it for ourselves?  We do penance, and through that everyone else pays.

I heard Matt Chandler, a pastor in Texas, use the illustration of his daughter learning to walk as an example of God’s grace to us. When his daughter was learning to walk, they got the video camera ready and helped her to her feet, encouraged and applauded her.  When she would stumble, like they expected her to, no one said, “Stupid kid.” They only applauded the progress she had made. They expected her to fall, but when she did, they just helped her back up.  That is how God’s grace is with us. He doesn’t knock us back down.  He expects us to stumble and He knows every sin we will commit and knew it long before we were even created, but still put His plan of salvation into effect. If we can’t accept this gift of grace, how in the world can we extend it or be examples of it to our children?

I heard this quote by C.S. Lewis, too, that was a good reminder to me. We like to beat ourselves up because in some backwards way we feel like it makes us better parents, sometimes better Christians. If we feel the heavy blows of guilt on our backs every day, it somehow makes us holier. Lewis said this, “True humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.” If we could grasp that as parents, if we could let go of the guilt which still ties us up and keeps the focus on ourselves, how much more free would we be to love and show grace to those in our home, especially our children?

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True Romance, True Love

It was one of those mornings. I crunched my way through the snow back to the house in frustration, knowing that my husband and girls were watching me as they drove away. I blew a cursory kiss at them and mumbled under my breath, “Yes please, please, all just go away.” I sighed as guilt washed over me. I was still harboring bitterness from the night before when I pulled a snowman ornament out of my daughter’s backpack that had been her show-and-tell object for the day. I had picked it out for her the previous Christmas and carefully wrote her name on it. That morning when she plucked it from the tree, I helped her wrap it delicately in a towel and warned her (in as nonchalant a tone as possible to sound like I was giving friendly advice more than a lecture) that the arms would break off easily. I almost knew it the moment the words came out of my mouth. I knew that the little guy wouldn’t make it home in one piece. For some reason, when I pulled it out of her backpack with one arm missing, this only made me angrier. Because I know my daughter, and I knew it hadn’t happened on accident. When confronted she confessed that she had to prove how NOT delicate his arms were and twisted one off, hours after I had mentioned it. I had yelled and sent her to bed without fixing things between us which laid heavily on me the whole night as I debated whether to wake her or wait until morning to work things out. In the end, I did neither. Instead in a very mature and nurturing way, I gave her the cold shoulder all morning. Good parenting 101. Fail.

My other daughter had climbed into the van for school and looked at me with all the pathetic puppy dog face she could muster and told me she had lost her gloves. Again. I told her to go in and look for them, which I also knew was a lost cause. Her idea of looking for things is to scan the walls and turn in a circle before pronouncing that she “just can’t find them”. So while my husband and I went on a hunt for her gloves, she turned circles and played with the cat. They never did show up and when I told her (admittedly thinking, This will show her), “Well, I guess you are just going to be cold today,” she responded with an apathetic, “Okay,” and a good old fashioned shrug of the shoulders. I wanted to scream, but instead, as my husband went to kiss me goodbye, I grazed his cheek with my lips and I could feel it bubbling up inside of me. Though that little voice cautioned me not to, the urge was just too great and I succumbed to temptation. The words tumbled out of my mouth in a hot, boiling stream of lava and I spewed, “Gosh, I am so sick of this. She twirls, Sam. TWIRLS! That’s how she looks for gloves, and the other one-well…she’s just her. Why does she have to defy me just for the sake of it? Why does she have to tear the arms off just because I told her to be careful? What is it that drives her to be so vindictive just because I told her to be careful?! I don’t want this. I don’t want to be this wife…this mom…I just nag and-” I was cut short by the look on his face; the one that said, “Yep. Heard it yesterday. Twice. And the day before that, and the day before that….”

So as the van drove away, I grumbled the whole way to the house with a “good riddance” in my heart for the people I love most in my life.

So many days I think,”How did this happen? When did I become this…..this…wife and mother?” When I dreamed of being a mom and wife, I pictured baked cookies and home-cooked meals, playing games and kissing boo-boos and being a lifelong friend to my husband. I didn’t picture explosions over broken Christmas ornaments and lost gloves. I didn’t picture my days being filled with “please find your socks”, “don’t put that in your mouth”, “didn’t I just ask you not to throw the cat?”, “work it out with your sister”, “if you say please”, “seriously? I just bought you those shoes! How do they have holes in the already,”, “I already answered that question six times! No, it is not time to go yet”, “no, this is my chocolate. I just gave you a cookie! Can’t anything in this house be just mine?! You broke three things of mine today. Can’t I just eat this chocolate in peace?”. I certainly didn’t picture my husband giving me that look. The one that says you have officially moved from being one love, his friend, his companion, his comfort to his wife.

I know that some of you will nod your heads in agreement while others might curse me for acting like “wife” is a four letter word (though technically, in my defense, it is) :). But I think you still know what I mean. The old ball and chain. The old hatchet. The old lady. I hate that look more than anything and I am married to the most patient man in the world and he can still give me that look, often accompanied by a sigh. It kills me a little every time. Literally every day of my life I ponder, I pray about, I worry about how I can be a better wife to my husband, a better mother to my children. Still, I come up short, which only frustrates me more and makes me have a shorter fuse and the cycle continues! As my family drove away, though I was grumbling, my heart was sinking. No matter how many times my poor husband had heard it, it didn’t make it any less true: I didn’t want this. I want them, but I don’t want this version of me.

By the time I had climbed the stairs to my bedroom to get ready for the day, I was no longer frustrated but defeated. I sat down to Facebook (of all things) and saw two separate articles posted by friends; one about marriage, the other about parenting-both cautionary tales to not take for granted your spouse or children no matter the conflicts that might arise. One had a happy ending, the other did not. I cried heartily reading both.

I am a deep romantic at heart. Someone told me not too long ago that romantics can truly enjoy life sometimes and feel things deeply, but they can also be disappointed easily by unmet expectations. It is my romantic side that measures the roundness of Evie’s face and how she has changed and studies her ears because they have changed the least since she was a baby. My romantic side caresses Nora’s cheek and recounts to her stories of when she was a baby and how I used to hold her closely and stay up with her at night. My romantic side leaves notes in my husband’s office with little doodles or puts surprises in his truck to find on a hard day. But sometimes, when I am caught up in those moments, the girls don’t want to be bothered with my stories and Sam might be too busy to thank me for the notes.There is nothing more crushing sometimes than being on a plateau and being ripped down by carelessness, thoughtlessness. I am disappointed and I pull away. I might try again, but find myself disappointed again. I am forgotten, I am taken for granted, I am ignored. I think this is a curse of a lot of moms and I don’t think I’m alone.

But today, as I was reminded again, romance can be found in the lonlieness, in the disappointment. Love and relationships are never easy. Isn’t there something romantic about a difficult relationship? Isn’t there something sweet about muddling through a difficult time in life together and coming out the other side stronger, more committed? Who wants to watch a movie where a couple gets together in the first five minutes? Isn’t that boring? Even when my children push me away, I know there is something in them that just needs me to pull them back; to love on them a little harder.

When I first started dating my husband, I fell hard and fast. I fell in love with him through snail mail!! Being in love was easy. Love, true love, takes work. Love is choosing to kiss a scraped knee, even after I have been ignored, given attitude, harassed. Love is choosing to make a home-cooked meal after I was forgotten. True romance is still leaving little notes in the girls’ lunchboxes with little pictures and notes so they know I love them after they have broken ornaments and lost gloves. Love is getting up in the middle of the night to soothe away nightmares and clean up vomit. Love is cooling a warm forehead with a wet rag. Romance is forcing yourself to wrap your arms tightly around someone who has said hurtful things and choosing to forgive them. Romance is running someone else a bath when you want nothing more than to soak in it yourself and soothe away the aches and exhaustion of the day. Love is staying up into the wee hours of the morning to work through painful words or misunderstandings and grasping for reconciliation in the dark. True romance is a hot cup of tea for a sore throat or a look of encouragement across the room when you feel all eyes on you. Love is cleaning up a mess so someone else doesn’t have to.

Love is messy. Love is dirty. Love is painful; and there is something so romantic about the melancholy, lonely, day to day struggles to keep your family and marriage together.

True love is taking a beating when you did nothing wrong for those you love as your own; true love is teaching, mentoring, comforting and loving those you know will soon abandon you in your greatest moment of need when you have never asked anything of them; true love is crying out for a different plan but still choosing sacrifice for the deep, grueling love and salvation of others; true love is nailing my sins to a cross, cold, splintered and bloody and finishing it all on the darkest day in history just so that I might have life everlasting.

I love, because God first loved me, and I know better than anybody that that ain’t easy. So I will love and find the true romance in paying off a debt that can never fully be repaid. Love is grueling, painful, sacrificial-love is tough. And I think that is pretty darn romantic.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 8:13

23

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.

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Ode to Moms (especially mine)

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I sat across from my mom at a restaurant and she handed me some money for gas, which I refused. I wanted this day to be for us, no strings attached, on me, but like most moms, she couldn’t let it go.  She is a caregiver, a provider, she has the innate need to take care of her children. “Mom, you took care of me for twenty years, I owe you.” That’s what I said, as if a ten dollar bill could begin to cover what my mom did for me in twenty years.

You see, I am THAT person-the one who lived in blissful denial of all my mother did to care for me until I became a mother myself.  We wanted to have children for so long that when I heard other moms complain about the woes of motherhood I would smile politely and nod my head sympathetically but inwardly be rolling my eyes and think something like, they call them bundles of JOY for a reason. Even then, I wasn’t seeing the whole picture.  This was before the middle of the night calls to change a wet bed, to clean up vomit, or to soothe away a nightmare.  This was long before the unspeakable trials of potty training and being woken up every morning to screaming (yes, even now).  This was before the frustrations, the heartache, the total exhaustion of motherhood.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so blessed to be a mom. I am so deeply fond of and completely in love with both of my girls.  I truly understand what it means to be a “mama bear” when someone has tried to mess with my girls (yeah-this a warning- DO NOT mess with my children.  If you do, well….just don’t. I have a clean criminal record and I’d like to keep it that way).  Still, no one tells you how much pain your children can inflict on you in just common, careless, everyday ways.

Yesterday we took our girls to a local fair.  We saw and petted pigs, horses, rabbits, cows, sheep, goats, chickens and alpacas. Yeah-alpacas.  We saw a miniature pony show, rode rides, watched a sheep fashion show, and two magic shows.  Oh yeah, and they got to jump in a bouncy castle.  It was….um…it was….how do I put this…..frustrating.  It went a little something like this, (me) “Honey, you can’t pet a horse from behind….just trust me. You really don’t want to pet it from behind….because you don’t if you want to keep your teeth and face in general!…don’t put your fingers in the rabbit cage, they might think they are carrots…..no, we aren’t going to buy food right now. You just ate, you will be okay. Stop whining now or we will go home right now!…sweetheart, watch out so you don’t get run over by that mini horse cart……honey, it’s okay. It will be okay. See? Daddy’s ok. The magician just wants Daddy to help him with a trick….please, please, please for the eighth time stop putting things in your mouth….Nora, stop running ahead. I don’t care if you want to go that way, we are going this way…..Sit down….I told you to sit down while the ride is going….sit down, please, you are scaring your sister….SIT DOWN!!….” You get the idea.  One of the hardest things about being a mom that no one tells you, that I don’t think anyone can tell you until you experience it for yourself, is the total heartache and courage it takes to be a mom.  Even without me giving you every detail of our day, I’m sure you can image the scenario.  The kids complained about how hot it was. No sooner would we walk into one barn they would want to go to another one.  At the top of the ferris wheel, one child kept tormenting the other one and terrifying her parents by not sitting, trying to look out over the edge, rock the cart, and stomp her feet repeatedly for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of the rest of us.  They whined, fussed, dragged their feet, bickered, tried to take charge, scowled, cried….again, you can see where I am going with this.  But despite all of that, we are trying to make memories, because we believe one day they will look back and say, “Do you remember going to the fair? I used to love going to the fair. And do you remember that one time…..”. Yet not once did they say “thank you” without being prompted.  Not once did it occur to them that this was a treat, not something they somehow had earned the right to.  When they misbehaved or complained and were corrected for it, they resented us for pointing it out to them.  It rarely occurs to them that perhaps they were at fault and not us for their unhappiness.

Again, my point is NOT to complain about my children, or even about being a mom, but more as a very small, minute way of thanking my own mom.  I remember one time when I was just out of high school pulling a favorite jacket of mine out of the dryer, and the zipper on it had melted.  I stormed up the stairs to my mom who was faithfully making dinner, that I was NOT helping with, I might add, with hands on my hips demanding why she had put my favorite jacket in the dryer.  Did she see? Did she see what had happened when she put my jacket in the dryer? It was my favorite jacket. Now what was I supposed to wear? And do you know how my mother responded? Did she throw it back in my face and tell me that maybe I should be doing my own laundry? Did she tell me off like I deserved? No. She apologized.  My poor mother apologized to me. I will never forget that.  It took years after remembering that incident to even feel remorse for the way I had acted, to feel shame for the level of ingratitude I displayed.

I can clean up all sorts of bodily fluids while gagging my way through it.  I can wipe runny noses, scrub crayons off the walls, make breakfast, lunch and dinner, kiss boo-boos (real and imaginary), put Barbie heads back on, pick out outfits, write “I love you” notes in lunchboxes, give baths, read stories to, sing to sleep, help find shoes….this is the part of motherhood that is often exhausting, but so rewarding.  I love nursing my children back to health when they are sick.  I love that when they are really hurt, they only want me.  I love that they ask me to make them pink eggs or have girl day or a tea party with them.  I love helping them learn new things and watching them explore a new world.  I love, absolutely LOVE when they are trying to learn a new word and say it wrong.  I didn’t have to heart to tell the girls a backpack isn’t a “pack pack” and even found myself calling it that.  I love that they want me to scratch their backs and sing them a song every night before bed.  I love the special memories that we are making together that only we can boast, like watching trains from the porch with a hot cup of cocoa before school.  These are the picturesque moments I only dreamed about, and they are so much better than I imagined they would be.  These are the moments you want to capture in a bottle and hope they never fade away.  These are the moments that make me sigh when I check on the girls after they have fallen asleep and make me wish they would stay this little forever.  This part of being a mom is something priceless.  This is what makes it all worthwhile.

But, those other times, when it feels nearly impossible NOT to nag them every moment of the day because you have their best interest at heart that makes this job so difficult.  Whether you are a mom like me and don’t want them to get kicked in the head by a horse or a cow and are forced to hold their wriggling hand in yours knowing they are resenting the heck out of you for it because they refused to listen, or the mom of an older child who has to be the one to tell them that they need to find a job because sleeping in and playing video games is not a viable option for a career choice.  The hardest part about that is because every mom knows these moments are investments.  Right now they won’t see your love, your sacrifice, they will only see how you are spoiling their fun.  Every mom worth her salt knows that you have to prod, correct, and discipline for the well-being of her child that she loves more than life itself, even in a world where so much seems to be going against her efforts.  Still, she must try because she loves her children so dearly.  There is a verse that my mentor growing up always told me and still says to me now that is the mantra of every mom, “So I will very gladly spend and be spent for you, knowing the more I love, the less I be loved.” (2 Cor. 12:15)

True love is a sacrifice, because true love means putting someone else’s needs and desires much above your own.  My desire to be liked, to be adored by my children (and this is such a great desire) often takes a backseat to what is best for my children.  I think this, in my own humble experience, is the hardest part about being a parent.  Parents (dads, too) know this more than anyone. So, finally, I want to thank my mom (and dad) for the sacrifice of love made to me growing up and even now.  Thank you doesn’t begin to cover it, I know. A lunch out is a pitiful compensation.  Still, thank you for cleaning up my messes, physical and emotional.  Thank you for taking care of me with so little gratitude.  Thank you for your diligence in correcting me though it took me years to acknowledge this as a sacrifice of love.  Thank you for nagging, even when it’s not necessary, because you truly want what is best for me.  Even now, I see you having trouble letting go because you want the very best and to see me be the best version of what God can make of me.

In short, thanks so much for being my mom.