It was a sunny evening at home last summer. Sean was at the church doing youth ministry and I was wrangling kids, dishes, and baths. I told the older three (ages 6, 5, and 4) they had 15 minutes left of play while I bathed Haley. When I called out the door, "bath time!" a short while later I heard no response. As I made a bottle and pulled out pajamas I realized no pattering feet were coming up the patio. I tried again. No response.
I slipped on a pair of Sean's shoes, put fresh faced Haley on my hip and went outside. All was quiet and if you know my kids, quiet means they aren't nearby. I walked behind our property miffed- calling names, meandering, kicking around in Sean's big shoes.
6/13/2013 1 Comment
One of the surprises as I've been writing about adoption in my family and throughout our extended family is how family members' perspectives and experiences are impacting me. My cousin Sommer told me she was praying God would start showing me threads that weave through all the stories and while I'm still struggling to have overall vision, I've decided even for my own experience I'm thankful to be the listener to stories, to Truth revealed, to the hurts, healing, and miracles within my family. I believe God will answer Sommer's prayer and in the meantime I'm looking at many little pieces.
My cousin Tyler and his wife Ruth adopted two boys from Eastern Europe just over one year ago. Then within two months Tyler and Ruth's first biological son was born. Over the summer they went from zero to three boys, two of whom were learning English and adjusting to a new culture. The learning curve into parenting feels steep regardless of how you happen into it. Compile sleepless newborn nights with attaching to elementary age boys who have already lived through more circumstances than most adults have, teaching English, and getting their heads around the fact that this is now a full blown family, and you'll be as impressed as I am that they are still standing... and even occasionally smiling.
Tyler and I started talking adoption. Then we started talking about kids, parenting, and how God is using parenting to transform us. I'm sharing excerpts of what Tyler shared because it hit home, then bounced around, then simmered in my mind. Naturally, after that much thought it tumbled out into this blog. I couldn't hog all of his thoughts to myself. You all deserve to have it simmer in your minds, too:
I love in the Old Testament when God does a work and His people recognize and remember it by building altars or memorials. We don't often enough go out back, erect a big pile of rocks and say "Look what God did!" There is significance in tangible markers for us and our children to remember God's faithfulness and character.
I considered creating a large rock monument in my backyard this week but settled on this blog as a reminder and proclamation of God's faithfulness instead (I'm sure my landlords would thank me).
A year ago I knew what my choice was for my kids' education. I had home schooled for two years and while it suited our family in that season, I was asking God for a new season. With two little ones underfoot (one being a very busy two year old that had with her a social worker, mountain of paperwork, and pending adoption to focus on), with Sean's ministry and a lot of my own things to sort through, I knew I wouldn't be teaching well this year.
I was loading produce onto the conveyer belt when the checker asked, "How is your day going?"
"Good. Finished a Wal-Mart trip and other errands. This is our last stop and we're all in one piece."
Everett, who was eye level to the conveyer belt, looked up at the checker and informed her, "We had to get stuff to make our house safe 'cuz we're going to adopt more kids. Only we aren't keeping these ones. We're sending them back to their moms."
I barely held back my laughter as I explained, "I'm updating my foster care license. We have no plans for adding more kids. We're just available for emergencies or to help other foster parents...."
I trailed off realizing that maybe Everett's over-sharing with strangers habit may have been acquired from me.
This spring I took a class for six hours every Friday for six weeks to update my foster license. It crossed my mind to let the license expire. Our adoption is complete, we have no plans to add to our family, and I am very much enjoying (for the first time in eight years) being a diaper free family. When Sean is gone for a few consecutive nights or planning his next adventure, when I look at our lifestyle and full time ministry demands, when I think about the roller coaster the last few years have been, when I'm scrubbing crayon off the wall or listening to four little competing voices escalate in the car I can very clearly tell you, "I love my four kids. I am great with four kids. There's still a chance I'll need to be locked in a padded room with my current life so I'm certainly not going to increase those chances by adding to it."
It took me four days to paint a bunk bed. It would be one thing if I could say “to paint a bunk bed well” but I can’t quite claim that. On day three I was surly, feeling like there was no reason this project should be consuming my week. How did all afternoon only produce a few white boards?
There was that quick interruption when I had to change sheets (twice) on account of a two year old having a rough day and wetting them. Also on the subject of potty troubles, I plunged the toilet twice on account of a four year old who believes one roll of toilet paper per sitting should do the job. It would have been quick clean up if he had thought to get me instead of flushing again…and again… and again until the floor and rugs were sopping wet with dirty water. Oops. That load of laundry included five towels and two rugs.
Then “I just need to switch laundry real quick” turned into “How did the mudroom get this muddy?” which turned into a quick vacuum, dumping muddy pants into the washer, and of course returning to the paint project.
About that time I heard a bus and two more heads appeared with, “Where’s our snack?” ”Here’s my homework.” ”Don’t forget to sign this.” ”I’m still hungry.” ”When’s dinner?”
Dinner it was and well after that before I found the paint smudge on my nose.
After all was quiet and four little eyes were closed in sleep I went to switch the laundry again. Hanging over my old, breaking dryer I recalled my first sobering “I can only do so much!” moment as a parent and how it was ironically spurred by a laundry commercial.
It was the middle of the night and I was nursing a baby in the dark living room with the TV on in miserable attempt to keep my eyes open. I’m certain there was yet more laundry piled on the floor, dried spit up on the couch armrest, and a pile of toys I couldn’t summon energy to clean before bed. I do remember it had been a day similar to the painting day- full of interruptions and good intentions derailed. One of those days you can’t recall what you did, but wow- was it ever hectic.
On came an Electrolux commercial with Kelly Ripa.
Nothing like a tan, perky, put together woman grinning her way through a demonstration of an amazing washer and dryer while I’m curled up on the couch with a nursing baby, bed head, retainers in, to make me feel… un-perky. I’m sorry Kelly, I’m trying to hear what you’re saying but your amazing biceps are distracting me. Will the washer and dryer make my hair silky and flippable like that? I think I may be drooling. (Oh, nope- that was the baby.) Good NIGHT woman how do you get those teeth so white?! Did you pick that outfit? The color is fabulous… how old are these pajama pants I’m wearing?
For a past midnight, delirious moment I believed. I believed when Kelly flicks her wrist full of bouncy, clean laundry, it folds itself. I believed she can pull a tablecloth out from a full table setting without rocking the vase of fresh flowers. She convinced me that every closet is organized, every baby book up to date, and there probably aren’t even crumbs in her car. Does she even know what rotten milk in a lost sippy cup smells like? She probably wakes up and has a good workout before making a hearty breakfast for her family, arrives at the studio for makeup and is professionally stunning by 8am. When was the last time I was stunning by 8am? Thus was born The Kelly Ripa Illusion.
“Okay that’s extreme.” I laughed at myself but as I was burping the baby I stopped, mid-burp. ”Wait. Kelly Ripa has three kids like I have three kids. Sure, she probably has an unorganized closet somewhere but she looks incredible. Wait. How does she work, manage three kids, have calves like that, and do commercials like this? A grocery store trip takes my whole day!” My eyes narrowed. ”Ripa- what’s your secret?” I fought the wave of overwhelmed desperation and grasped for a rational thought. It came.
Kelly Ripa has 24 hours in her day just like I do.
The struggle is universal and though I’ve never discussed it with Kelly I’m convinced she experiences the same battle of expectations; of others expecting her to be larger than life when she sometimes wants to dissolve into a puddle and let someone else mop her up. She may have even suffered a moment of Mom guilt from not enough stories read, not a long enough tuck in, or a snack not homemade enough (but it probably was still organic. Come on, she’s Kelly freaking Ripa.)
I felt myself being pulled by what I hope of myself, what my husband wants, what my kids need, what my church expects, and should I be bringing in some income? Why didn’t I get my master’s when I had the chance? Wasn’t there someone I should have brought dinner to? Oh no, I’ve never even exposed my kids to classical music!
That is how an Elextrolux commercial caused me to cry out to God. “Lord- I will never be put together enough, will never do enough, never have energy enough, never will have a clean car, clean bathrooms, and clean kids on the same day…”
I was reassured. I was reassured that there are enough hours in my day to do what God has placed in front of me. It might not mean Kelly Ripa biceps (but some days and some seasons, it might). It doesn’t mean leisurely quiet time all morning but it does mean I wake before my family to use some moments for prayer and study. It means saying no to perfectly good things when they don’t line up with the very important things. It means being intentional with the time I do have, and constantly asking the Lord what it should look like.
My wise grandmother once told me that I don’t need to chase every passion, every desire, every gift from God in one swoop. She told me to let God dictate which ones get used in which seasons and let go of the rest. (Clearly I’m in a raising kids season so I’m foregoing Today Show appearances and learning that laundry folding/wrist flicking trick… you know… for the kids.)
For the first time in eight years I have a two year old without a baby close behind. I regularly sleep decent stretches and can do more than a grocery store trip in a day. It’s easy to give in to The Kelly Ripa Illusion and overshoot. ”I’ll run a marathon! I’ll write a book! I’ll get a job! I’ll take in another foster child! I’ll travel! I’ll eliminate poverty!”
Then I remember a glowing Kelly, Electrolux, and that I need to ask the Lord “what for this season?”
Apparently this season was a bunk bed. Anything else was overshooting. In fact, my idea to write this “quick fluffy little blog” may have been an overshot. In the previous paragraph alone I was interrupted no less than four times for help on the toilet (what is with these kids!?), for a bike crash, for mud in the eyes, and to reheat my coffee because this is taking altogether too long.
There are hundreds of small things to celebrate under the umbrella of official adoption and in this moment it’s that I no longer have to refer to our youngest as “Little Girly” publicly but can use her full new name, Haley Kate Taylor.
Celebrations have been in full swing this week. Yesterday afternoon as I was preparing for Haley’s adoption party, I heard a knock on our front door. I swung it open and had a “pause… wait for it…” moment as I realized my dear friend Jill and her daughter from southwest WA were grinning at me with an armful of flowers. After my “what-the-heck-is-going-on” pause followed by many tears, they were swept up in the celebration whirlwind with the rest of us.
For Mother's Day S. and the kids hopped on the riding lawnmower and trekked through the neighborhood to find a rototiller. About 10 conversations, 3 petted dogs, and countless stops later they found one. They all proudly participated in getting my garden ready for seeds. (Complete with scarecrow. Darla and Hudson were determined to make a scarecrow the topper.)That was a few weeks ago and weeds have already started to pop up. Everything in me wants to be frustrated that I haven't put those seeds in yet. It's a reminder that I have been forced this year to let go of all sorts of expectations (insert deep, calming breath here).
May you, fathers and warriors of your family, never take lightly your impact on your daughters.
This week I told Darla she should consider letting Aunt Jazz cut her hair. The battle we endure every morning as we get tangles out is not worth it. She thought about it and announced she wanted short hair like cousins Pearl, Eve, and Delayne. That afternoon Jasmine gave her a cute bob. She was delighted.
On the way home Darla suddenly burst out, "I don't like my short hair! I want it long! I want it back!"
Wide eyed (and slightly panicked) I turned to her. "Slow down, Darla. Talk to me about why. You loved it a few minutes ago."
The tears started. "Mom! What if Daddy doesn't like it? What if he doesn't think I'm pretty anymore?!"
My mouth dropped open. "Darla, you know Dad doesn't care if it's long or short. He loves you not your hair."
It's easy in parenting to get hung up on aspects that aren't running smoothly. There have been moments with Hudson this month that have made my eyes cross in frustration. S. & I ask each other, "Is he not paying attention? Is he intentionally ignoring us? Was that disrespect out of rebellion or simply for a laugh?" There have been some rough pull-over-on-the-freeway-to-discipline moments. However, I am determined to not get absorbed in the rough patches when there is much to enjoy:
I am watching admirable character traits deepen in the heart of this not-so-little boy. They say you can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats his mom. Hudson melts me.
Last week I came home from working out early in the morning and Hudson had snuck into our bed to be by S. I passed through on my way to the shower thinking they were both asleep. I heard Hudson whisper, "Mom! Mom, you look so, so, so pretty! You put your hair like that all the time, okay?"
I hid a smile- sweaty, in shorts with a messy ponytail? Doesn't take much I guess.
A couple days ago I burnt myself on the stove. I bit all the words that came to mind as I ran it under cold water. Hudson rushed over, "Oh, Mom! Oh, Mom! Are you okay? It's okay, Mom. You're okay." He then dashed out of the room to find what he uses for comfort; a tractor blanket and an armful of stuffed animals. I wrapped the blanket around me while I finished making dinner.
Yesterday on our way out the door for church Hudson stopped to compliment me again. "Mom, you look so pretty! You the prettiest girl ever!" He paused thoughtfully and added, "You AND Darla. Only you and Darla the prettiest. You always look pretty and not any other girls! Not any other girls pretty...not girlfriends...anybody." (His Dad agreed.) I know Hudson won't feel that way forever so I am going to soak up every minute of it!
This morning over breakfast the kids were sharing their dreams (this is the highlight of many Taylor breakfasts). Darla had much detail into her Tinkerbell dream. She then asked her brother, "Hudson, what did you dream about?"
He answered, "Me have dream just about me and mom. Me a grown up and me a doctor so then me fixed Mom's back."
He has been quite concerned about my back since I threw it out recently. But concerned enough to dream about being able to fix it? Now that's a real man.
May the Lord continue to build these things in him; an ability to comfort and encourage, to see a need and meet it, and exclusive devotion to the most important woman in his life. This 3 year old has some lessons to teach many adult men I know. Oh, and Lord...please make him a chiropractor for real. That was a prophetic dream, right?
A package came in the mail a few weeks ago, for Darla and me. It was from the queen of party-throwing, my childhood friend Jayena. (She throws sophisticated, stunning, personal parties for people. I remember she had a knack for it in the 8th grade when it was about a good sized sheet cake and the cutest boys. On a slumber party scale she was always off the charts.)
Jayena heard that Darla is herself quite the party planner- so she sent a party in a box for us. We waited until Valentine's Day to pull it all out and throw the bestparty for our boys. Darla and I handled all the decorating while Hudson and Sean made dinner for us (Everett ran back and forth between the rooms, blanket in tow.)
Just throwing myself out there a bit...