Tuesday, May 26, 2015

monday/tuesday

Hi friends!  It's Tuesday, but sort of like Monday and I'm tired and I thought I'd share some things that have been of interest to me lately in hopes that you might find something new to enjoy as well.


A couple weeks ago, I was over at Sweet Goings sharing about mom guilt and onions and grace.  Hop over HERE to read it.

This weekend, my husband worked the closing shift so I had time to finish the miniseries North & South on Netflix.  It's from the good old BBC and it's a super sweet love story.  Fair warning, it takes a couple of episodes to get into it, but when it was over I really wished there was more!

This website, Empowering Parents has become my lifeline.  Our sensory therapist recommended it, but I had actually discovered it a day earlier and it has changed the way I parent my most difficult child.  If you have a hard kid, check it out!  Fantastic articles that cover issues I haven't been able to find anywhere else.

I'm still working my way through my second reading of The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.  It is such a beautiful reminder of God's love and how much more it is than the trivial thing I often convince myself of.


I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend.  I'm with those of you who didn't have a weekend off with the family all together...my husband works retail and I had a photo shoot on Sunday.  But we still found time to hang out with my visiting grandparents and to swim and relax poolside.

Have a great week.  Enjoy the last bits of routine before school ends!  Lord help us as we try to entertain our littles for summer!

Here's one genius idea I'd like to share:

(Don't worry, he had fun.  But seriously, cheap entertainment, ya'll!)
 
 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mother's Day and Expectations

Mother's Day was a little different this year.  My husband had to work all day and one of my sons was grounded to his room all day (except when we were celebrating).  So most of the day was me hanging out on the couch with my other son. 

But the weekend overall was a good one and I felt loved.  This was my first Mother's Day with kids in school so I was surprised when they both brought home all kinds of sweet gifts on Friday.  E had made me a corsage and a beautiful painting of his handprint as a flower.  J-Man wrote an "All About My Mom" paper, which was quite entertaining, made a handprint on a ceramic plate, and a beautiful card.  I loved it all!

On Saturday, my in-laws gave me a much-needed break since Chris had been out of town all last week for a work training.  While Nana and Papa watched my boys, I joined my mom and sis-in-law for a little Mother's Day lunch and shopping. 

And then on Sunday morning, E woke up early to make me cinnamon sugar toast, which he brought me in bed with my coffee.  Chris helped him, of course, but the whole thing was his idea and it was adorable.

We celebrated with my mom-in-law and then with my mom in the evening to wrap up the day.

 
Do you find that Mother's Day carries with it a certain amount of pressure?  I feel like there's this pressure on our families to just spoil us all day and there's this expectation that our family has to sort of pretend to be perfect for a day.  At my adoptive parent support group the week before, we talked about Mother's Day.  We talked about the big feelings our kids often have surrounding that day as they think about their birthmothers and where their loyalties should lie and as they grieve, once again, their most profound loss.  We talked about our children from hard places and whatever behavioral challenges they are experiencing at the moment and what that was going to be like on Mother's Day.

I really didn't want to ground my son on Mother's Day, people!  But consistency is key in parenting and I had to follow through.  It helped that one mom at my support group had talked about Mother's Day not needing to be this huge all-day pampering affair.  We could just hope our kids tell us "Happy Mother's Day.  I love you."  And that could be enough. 

I purposefully released any expectations that I had of the day before it arrived.  I decided all I needed, all I wanted, was indeed for my kids to acknowledge the day and tell me they loved me.  And you know what?  It made every other sweet thing that happened all weekend that much sweeter, even the little stuff.  And it made every disappointing thing not really matter much. 

This goes for all of life, really, right?  It's our unmet expectations that really cause most of our frustration in life.  If we can let go of our unrealistic expectations, how much less disappointment we'd have!  And not that we shouldn't live lives full of hope.  But sometimes our expectations aren't realistic.  Sometimes we have to adjust them or throw them out and come up with new ones.  I've learned that's a big part of parenting children from hard places.  Letting go of my expectations of motherhood and finding freedom in celebrating what I have instead. 



Thursday, April 30, 2015

I'm Still Here!



I've been quiet on here lately and I apologize for that.  Thank you for sticking with me!  Sometimes I just can't get myself to write when life is chaotic.  My thoughts are so disorganized that the idea of organizing them into a blog post is overwhelming.

My husband started a new job this month.  At Target.  Hello "Family Discount"!  He's an Assistant Manager.  It's a great job and a great thing for our family, but he is working more hours and different hours and so we are getting used to that.  And by "getting used to" I really mean one of the smaller people in our house is throwing big old hissy fits and breaking only the most important household rules.  Lord help us!

Also, J-Man is starting preschool tomorrow.  Can I get a "hallelujah"?!  He needs it.  I need it.  We all need it.  Three mornings a week...no children at home.  What?!  Until baby number 3 arrives.  Which could be any day.  Or four months. 

Anyway, new job.  CHANGE.  Preschool starting.  CHANGE.  New baby expected soon.  CHANGE.

And we all know how kids from hard places deal with change.  Remarkably well.

No, I'm kidding!  My kids sort of fall apart.  Send reinforcements.


What I really want to tell you today is that about three weeks ago I wrote a guest post for my friend Kate's blog Sweet Goings about parenting and what that does and doesn't mean.  I forgot to tell you about it so now I'm telling you about it!  You can go read it if you want!


I guess I should be a little clearer on Adoption #3!  We are in the matching phase of adopting through foster care.  We have requested to be matched with an infant 12 months or younger.  So we are just waiting and praying.  I'm freaking out a little bit.  But I'm also really excited.  Please pray for us and our future child!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Two Kinds of Guilt

 
 
"When we wallow in guilt, remorse, and shame over real or imagined sins of the past we are disdaining God's gift of grace." - Brennan Manning The Ragamuffin Gospel

Guilt.  There's an unhealthy kind and there's a healthy kind.  Do you know this?  I do.  Until I forget. 

During this past year, as we were thinking and praying about adopting again...

Side note:  I realize I haven't "announced" on here that we are adopting again!  I'm not one for big, creative announcements so here it is:  WE'RE ADOPTING AGAIN!  We are in the process of fost-adopt with our home study being updated as we speak.  We should enter the matching phase by the end of this month and then we just wait.  It could be 6 months, it could be a year.  We don't know.  We're nervous and excited and just trusting the Lord to bring us the child He wants to bring us.

Back to this post!  During this past year, as we were thinking and praying about adopting again, the enemy reminded me of all my failings and all my times of falling short in parenting my boys.  (he can be a real a-hole like that)  I began to wallow in guilt and shame.  I questioned myself and my understanding of God's calling.  I wondered if I was the right person to do this all over again.  Parenting kids from hard places is HARD.  And sometimes I don't have enough patience or gentleness or kindness.  Sometimes I respond with too much anger.  Sometimes I act more like another kid than like the adult in the situation.  And all those times kept haunting me.

Brennan Manning explains unhealthy guilt so well in his amazing book The Ragamuffin Gospel:

"The language of unhealthy guilt is harsh.  It is demanding, abusing, criticizing, rejecting, accusing, blaming, condemning, reproaching, and scolding...Christians are shocked and horrified because they have failed.  Unhealthy guilt becomes bigger than life."
 
Have you been there?
 
I have.  But eventually God reminded me of the difference between unhealthy guilt and healthy guilt.  I felt like He said, "Okay, Laurel, you sinned.  Don't try to justify it or make yourself feel better about it.  Own it.  Confess it.  And then move forward because I have forgiven you." 
 
"...healthy guilt is one which acknowledges the wrong done and feels remorse, but then is free to embrace the forgiveness that has been offered.  Healthy guilt focuses on the realization that all has been forgiven, the wrong has been redeemed...you can forgive yourself because you are forgiven, accept yourself because you are accepted, and begin to start building up the very places you once tore down."
 
So good, right?  I love that!  Yes, we should acknowledge our sin and feel guilty about it, but we don't stay there.  We move forward, realizing we are forgiven, it's done, it's washed away.  God is a God who redeems and restores.  And so we repent and we figure out how we're going to work on doing better next time. 
 
And then we let go of the guilt and shame.  We accept God's grace.  And we live in that grace.  Free, redeemed, grateful.  That's where God wants us to live.  In celebration of His grace rather than in disdain of it.
 
Let's live there, friends!  It's time to leave the guilt and the shame. 
 
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free"  Galatians 5.1
 
 
 


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Adopting From Foster Care

To be honest, ya'll, I'm not feeling very inspired this week.  It's been an all-around stressful week and I just haven't had it in me to write any new posts.  So I'm re-posting one I wrote a couple years ago about our fost/adopt process and experience.  I hope it's helpful and informative for those of you interested in fost/adopt. 

Fost/Adopt

We began our fost/adopt process in 2011.  We had already used a local agency called Chrysalis House for our international homestudy during our first adoption, and were so happy with the experience, and with our social worker, that we decided to use them again for fost/adopt.  Because we had already done one adoption through them, our paperwork and training process went quite smoothly.  We really just had to update things and attend more trainings.  It only took us a few months to finish that side of things and officially begin the matching process. 

We were hoping to be matched with a child 18 months or younger.  Our oldest son was 2 at the time and we thought it would take us about a year to be matched with a child so we figured our boys would be about 2 years apart.

Three weeks into our matching process, I got a call from our social worker telling me to check my email for a brief profile of a little 18-month-old boy.  I was shocked and also so very excited!!!

I read the brief info, talked with Chris, and we decided even though our boys would only be 6 months apart in age, we would, of course, take this little boy.  Our social worker was quickly able to send me a couple pictures of this adorable curly-haired toddler.  I melted.

J-Man was living about 4 hours away from us at the time so on our anniversary, we went to a social services office to receive full disclosure on his case and to play with him for a couple of hours.  He was so adorable we could hardly stand it.  It was incredibly awkward to play with him while two social workers watched and observed.  We sort of felt like we were auditioning to be his parents.  But we were also infatuated with him so we had a great time!

Then we began a very difficult month and a half of back-and-forth visits with J-Man.  First we spent a full day with him in his hometown.  Then he stayed a couple of nights with us at our home.  The case kept going to court and the judge kept delaying his decision for various reasons.  So we kept taking J-Man home for a few nights, taking him back to his foster home for a couple nights, bringing him home for a few nights, back, etc.  It was hard on the heart, let me tell you!  We knew we had to love him like he was already and for sure ours because that's what he deserved.  And yet, fears hung in our minds because we knew the judge could still say he was not going to be placed with us.

Finally, the judge ruled for J-Man to be placed in our family!  We fostered him for 8 months before it became an adoptive placement.  Then it was all about waiting for a court date to finalize our adoption.  A couple months went by, and we finalized everything, officially becoming a forever family! 

Adopting and raising children from hard places has probably been the most challenging thing I've ever done.  It's been more difficult than I could've ever known.  I am reminded of James 1.27 in the Bible, which says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress".  That last part resonates so deeply with me.  When we enter into caring for orphans, when we enter the world of adoption, we don't find a world neatly packaged where everything is tidy and easy.  We enter into a world of great distress.  But that is where the Lord is and that is where He tells us to go.  Adopting me was not easy for Jesus, it required great hardship and pain.  But He did it because He loved me that much and thought I was worth it.  And that is the story of adoption.  That is what we have the privilege of doing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Meet Laurel



A lot of new readers have been hopping over lately so I thought I'd reintroduce myself to you guys!

First of all, welcome!  Thanks for stopping by this blog of mine!  I write as a way to process, learn, and hopefully serve my readers.  On this blog, you will find a lot about adoption, family, and faith.  I hope you stick around and leave some comments because I love hearing from you!

So, I am a California native who feels like I probably belong in Portland.  I'm 6 feet tall and wear size 13 shoes.  I have a degree in Theatre Arts and a passion for telling stories through theatre, tv, and film.  After doing some professional theatre and some independent tv/film stuff in Los Angeles and Orange County, my husband and I decided we wanted to start a family and so we moved back to the area where we grew up.

My husband, Chris and I have been married for 7 years and we have two sons, both age 5.  We have formed our family through adoption, which for us was Plan A!  We adopted E from Ethiopia when he was a baby and we adopted J-Man through fost-adopt when he was a toddler.

I stay home with my kids and I do a little photography on the side as a creative outlet.

My husband and I are part of a new home church and we are learning and discovering what it looks like to do church in such a small, intimate setting.  We're finding it really quite beautiful and are blessed to be a part of it.

Chris and I often feel like we're still trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up!  We are more short-term planners than long-term.  We enjoy change, but have had to realize our kids do not!  We have no 5-year-plan and God seems to lead us on more of a week-by-week basis.  Really, we're just trying to fight the constant battle of keeping our hearts set on divine things rather than earthly things. 

I hope you stay a while.  Subscribe to the blog via email at the right side of the page or follow my Facebook page to keep updated. 



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Conversations That Become Normal



I heard that age five is one of the biggest for kids to process their stories, their adoptions, their lives.  So I was prepared.  I was prepared for big and hard and ugly.

E will be six in a few months.  (It's hard for me to wrap my brain around.)  The beginning of five was difficult with him.  But the rest of it?  The rest of it has been big, but not ugly.  He has processed so much this year.  There have been so many conversations around birthparents, orphanages, Ethiopia, adoption, forever and always, death, genetics.  You know, the usual stuff 5-year-olds talk about.  Right?  Maybe.  This is my first 5-year-old.

But the conversations have been good and sweet.  The conversations have been a success simply because they happened.  I have congratulated myself because my son felt comfortable coming to me for this stuff.  I recently heard that we parents need to be our kids' go-to people for these types of conversations.  That's one of the most important things.  We don't want them to go somewhere else, we want them to feel safe coming to us for all these big things. 

There has been so much talk of birthparents this year.  Before I became an adoptive mom, and maybe even for a time after I did, I thought I'd feel a bit threatened by my kids' birthparents.  I thought I'd feel a need to own all of my kids' loyalties and not share them.  I thought I'd be a bit stingy with their love.

But the Lord has changed me on that point.  I've learned that if I can love more than one kid, my kids can love more than one set of parents. 

I've learned that my kids' birthparents are part of our family, even if we never meet.  I've learned that there is no competition in love or in family.  I've learned that there need not be a discussion of who their "real" parents are because I am real and so is my husband and so are their birthparents.  We're all real.  We're all important.  We're all a part of our kids lives forever. 

But I'm still learning to make birthparents a normal part of conversation.  I don't want to force the subject on my kids if they don't need/want to talk about it regularly.  But I also want them to feel free and safe to say whatever they think or feel on the matter at any time.  I don't want there to be any taboo when it comes to the topic of birthparents.  So I'm learning to just casually bring it up at times. 

The other day we took our kids to meet their new baby cousin, recently born to my brother and his wife.  As we were getting in the car, E said, "I wonder if he'll have brown skin."  My brother and his wife are both Caucasian so this seemed like a great opportunity to talk about genetics and skin color.  Chris and I explained that the baby would have beige skin because both of his birthparents have beige skin.  (We've been talking lately about how everyone has birthparents.  Some kids' birthparents are also their forever parents and some kids have different forever parents.)  My kids were surprised by this idea that skin color comes from birthparents so we talked about it a bit more in depth and gave examples for both of them.  Then we went into eye color and hair color and talked about how I look a lot like Grandma because she's my birthmom, etc.  This was fascinating to my 5-year-olds.

We told them when they wonder what their birthparents look like, they can go look in the mirror because they probably look a lot like them.

Today E was talking about how much he likes math.  So I brought up the idea that one or both of his birthparents were probably good at math.  He didn't seem to really go for that one.  "No, I just like math," was his response. 

But the point is that I said it.  The point is that I'm helping them find their identity and their connections.  I'm reminding them and myself of the good in their birthparents.  I'm aligning myself with their birthparents and establishing that we are on the same team and we are all family.

Sometimes I look at our lives and laugh.  I never thought these were the conversations and topics that would be normal in our home.  But I love that they are.  Because the fact that they are normal is so beautiful.  The level of comfort we all feel talking about these things is something that has grown over the years and I so grateful for that.

I'd love to hear from you!  How do you help your kids talk about the big stuff?  How do you help them feel safe coming to you as their "go-to person"?
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