Monday, February 20, 2012

Being an old mom

I have been reflecting lately on how different it is to be a mom in my 50's than it was when I first became a mom in my early 20's.
Maybe because my oldest daughter, the one who first called me mom, just turned 30. That in itself is a reason for reflecting!

We started our family when we lived out of town, so we never really had any of the family hoopla that accompanies births day. I didn't have a baby shower thrown by an excited family member, no one rubbed my tummy and wondered who or what the child would look like. We were surrounded by a wonderful southern church family, and they were more than kind and giving, but the "real" family piece was missing.

No one crowded our hospital room, trying to catch those first photos of the new one, and some even took the news of her coming into the family as "not the best timing", being that we were struggling, poor college students far away from home.

We used all cloth diapers, and were able to get formula through the local WIC program. Life was hard.

But, in spite of all the struggle of having a child and being far from family, we managed it and even added 2 more to our quiver before I had to have a hysterectomy and watch the dreams of a large family disappear from our horizons.

We moved closer to home when our first son was one year old, and got involved in family fun and responsibilities, but we found out that the years we had been gone were totally irreplaceable. Our siblings families were in town, and there was a different sort of relationship with their children and our parents than there was with our children. It just happened that way.

Our kids grew up, way too fast, and we entertained the idea of adoption. We were 40, had determined we still had a shot at growing our family and searched our souls for the possibilities. It would impact and change our lives, but we were ready.

We read, and took council from many of our friends and family. We questioned our growing children and decided to proceed. We knew there would be differences that we would have this time around, especially adding 20 years to our aging bodies....and becoming parents to toddlers again.

Some of the things we would learn along the way were givens. Having 3 or 4 toddlers at once meant pushing one cart of kids at Walmart, while pulling another behind me full of groceries. Melt downs in the candy aisle. Added expenses for, clothes, vehicles big enough for us all, and renting 2 rooms at hotels to fit us all. With 7 new lives, the first three grown and gone, we are still learning.

Like, it is really hard to homeschool ages 15 to 5. Not a failure, but it didn't work well for us the year we did our best to execute it.
NOBODY invites a family of 9 over for dinner. (well, maybe one person does!)
Ballet classes, Y memberships, basketball teams or family outtings always cost more than an average size family.
You eat alot of casseroles and pasta.
Vacations with teens vs toddlers or little people rarely goes smoothly. One group of kids always feel left out or unhappy with the choices for the other group.
I am much more tired. So is dad.
Our parents are no longer interested in being grandparents....BTDT. At least not at the level we wish they could be involved.
Babysitters are never free.
A night out as a couple takes alot of planning.
Once we get out, a high time on the town is relaxing at the bookstore with a warm cup of coffee, until they close the doors at 11. By 11:00 we are ready to go home and sleep...knowing the kids will be up at the crack of dawn.
Saturdays are for games and activities, not browsing the antique malls or sleeping in.
Grandma and grampa are tired, and as much as I wish they were able to be here, alot of times I feel torn between caring for them and caring for the little ones still around me. It's hard to be in the middle when they all need so much care.

Now lest you think I am complaining, stop here! I have no complaints.
I wouldnt' trade the last 10 years of extra parenting for anything.

We have learned more about sharing, more about forgiveness, more about sacrifice.
We have learned about FAS, RAD, ADHD, OCD,PPD, CP .......
We have learned all the things we value are family, friends, relationships.
We have learned to trust God and let the little things go.
We have learned a messy house only means a busy house and there are way too many important things to do. The mess will be there later (and we will still be too tired to care!)
We also know it's OK to have macaroni and hot dogs for supper some nights. Or pizza. Or ramen noodles.

Life is full and rich and good.
Life is too short for regrets.
Life is what you make it.

It's harder some days, to be an older parent.
It's harder, but so worth it.
When a kids crawls in between us because they need to feel secure, we welcome them with open arms. It all goes by way too quickly.

The circle of life continues. And I am still glad we are going around again.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

An open letter to my daughter

Letter to my young teenage daughter,

Dear (fill in the blank),
You keep asking me to drop you off at the mall. You want to meet your friends there, enjoy the fun and be able to have a little freedom without a mom (me) breathing down your neck. You have some money in your wallet, the perfect outfit for your mall trip, and all you need is your mom (me) to drop you off.

You promise to keep the cell phone (we bought for the occasion when you were not right beside me) in your pocket, make no eye contact with strangers, and be right at the door when I come pick you up from your few hours of freedom.

I really want to be able to tell you yes. I KNOW you love styles, jewelry and all the glitter and glitz of the mall stores. I KNOW I hate to shop at the mall, and have been over that phase for a long time. I KNOW you believe you are capable of time without your parents, and I actually agree.

The problem with the plan comes down to values. Not yours, but mine!
I value YOU.
I value your innocence, your soul, your purity.
I value your charm and your beauty.
I value your future goals and dreams.
And I dont want any of those compromised on my watch.

You will be grown and gone so soon.
You will have to face the ugly in the world, and the ones who are out there that don't value you like I do.

So, let me ask you this...would I take my purse to the center of the mall, with my credit cards, drivers license and personal information to the common area and leave it?

Would I walk away from the things that matter enough to me that I carry it whereever I go? Would I trust my purse to strangers who would walk past it, look at it, or maybe even IN it? Would I trust that someone would see something they like about my purse, and that they wouldn't just take it with them? Would they handle it, but eventually take what they wanted from my purse, and leave it, discarded, stripped of what they wanted, and put it in the trash on their way out the door to the rest of their life?

No way! I would never do that with my purse!! I would never want to see my things violated, lost for good, pilfered for whatever someone else found useful. I image someone would even look at my purse, make fun of it (it's no COACH, ya' know) or not see the value of it like I do. After all, it's MY purse. I happen to like it, and want to keep it safe.

And that's just my purse. It's not nearly as valuable as you!

You don't feel it now, but time will fly by so fast. Soon you will be out there, hopefully loving your freedoms and be prepared to face whatever life throws at you.

But right now, I am not ready to set you down in the center of anything that feels like you could face danger.
Please trust my judgement when I say, I value YOU.

You are the reason I think twice before I say NO.
So when you hear NO, realize it's not forever, and it's not that I don't want to let you go.
I just VALUE you.

Alot more than that old purse.
Love, Mom


I have a beef today. It has really been brewing for quite some time, but it takes me a while to get it all sorted out in my heart.
It's about responsibility.

I have to start by saying, I am glad my parents were wise about teaching me responsibility. At the time of being a teenager, I probably resisted it. I remember a time I had bought some special shampoo with my own money, because what my parents bought just wasn't good enough for my own hair, and I left it in the family bathroom. Believe it or not, my little brother used it more than once, and I felt that wasn't fair. When I complained to my mom, she reminded me that everything I had ever needed was provided for me and if I bought anything that I was not prepared to share, I needed to keep it put away.

What I learned from that point in life was two-fold. I needed to view my "things" as an opportunity to share or be responsible to keep them put away. If it's out, it's expected to be community property.

How does that transfer to my parenting? Even though its not sinking in all the time well, this is how: my teenagers do their own laundry. Most of the time it's the clothes we purchased, but they have to keep them washed, dried and put away. They don't pay for any supplies, the electric and gas is provided, as well as the soap and softeners. They each get 2 nights a week to accomplish this task, and all they are required to do is to be respectful of the laundry that may already be in the appliances, and follow them through the cycle.

This is where it fails. I go down to the laundry room, and they still have a pile of clothes in the washer. Wet. So, they sat in front of the TV for the evening, and never followed through on their responsibility. Or, the basket of my laundry was pulled out of the dryer or washer, left heaped in a basket, and they proceeded to do their own thing with no concern for what it has done to someone else. That ticks me off. It is ONE of the only things they are required to do without fail, and it's for THEMSELVES and they still can't follow through.

So, I reminded each of them last night, I am not their slave. I have fed them, clothed them and cared for them all. They are each able to fend for themselves in the laundry room and they are creating more frustration for me when they dont' take responsibility for this ONE aspect of their lives. I have told them if I find any of their clothes in the dryer I will personally bag them and throw them away.

Yeah, I am trying to teach responsibility. This week it worked. The dryer is empty today.
Small steps.

I don't normally believe in parenting with such force. Afterall, they are just teenagers, right?
I have to tell myself as I am training them, we have such a small amount of time left. I have 3 teenagers right now, 15, 14 and 13. I keep watching them grow taller, wiser and older ! The time left to influence and train them is going by very fast. My 7 kids at home each have challenges, carry-overs from their families of origin. We deal with RAD, FAS, ADHD, and social issues. Behaviours can be frustrating, and as much as they look normal, each of the kids carry baggage from past hurt and trauma that makes their paths even tougher to negotiate. I could excuse alot of what they do, but instead, I really want to train them up to be their very best!

No one will do their laundry when they leave here. No one will feed them when they are hungry. No one else will be picking up after them. Adulthood is looming largely in front of them all, and they have much to prepare for. Laundry is just the beginnng.

I hurt for parents who are still babying their grown kids. I hate it that in this time of their lives, they are still figuring out how to get their adult children an education, or a home, or babysitters for their children's children. I am all for helping the helpless. But I really strive to be the parent who is conscious of training them while they are home, and setting them off for their futures prepared to excel.

I have three grown kids, married and thriving. It's not that I was a perfect mom, or that we haven't been through struggles. But I am so very thankful that they have learned responsibility from an early age, and when they make choices, they know they will be responsible for the outcome. I believe it has helped them be good citizens, employees and spouses.

Whether anyone else agrees, I see the huge benefits of learning responsibility at an early age. And the funniest part is, my 10 year old is already asking, "When do I get to start doing my own laundry?"

I dont' think its time yet, but I am glad she's already prepared to take that next step into responsibility for her personal life. That makes me proud.

End of sermon.

Friday, February 3, 2012


The weathermen are calling this Juneuary this year, due to the unseasonably warm weather our Michigan weather is thowing at us right now. I don't know about others in our area, but I am really sick of the ups and downs. I suspect now that we are in February, it is gonna get really icky and cold!

Speaking of colds, we have all had them. It has been the worst season for us all being sick with the upper respiratory junk, and today we have 2 seeing the doctor today. Tommy has had a ton of asthma issues this week, and is now being treated for a sinus infection. Missing 3 days of school is not as bad for him as some of the others would be, because he will catch up easily. Bella has been in school all week, but has been miserable. No fever, but told me in the night her ears have bubbles and hurt. Oh boy. We will get that appointment done at 4 today. And tomorrow we celebrate her 5th birthday, so its a shame for her to not feel good enough to enjoy that!

Mike took Tyler to the emergency room yesterday. He met him at school after a call that said "eye injury in machine shop". Oh how scarey! Fortunately, the foot that caught his eye did not carry any contaminants, and altho there is a split in his eyelid, no stitches. It was sore last night, and pretty puffy this morning, but the CT scan showed no internal damage. Wow, he is determined to mess up his face!! He has now had at least 2 broken noses, and several black eyes. I told him his modeling career will have to wait...

The rest of us are just treading water. The wait for my return to Africa continues to be delayed. It is painful, at best. I told a friend yesterday that I wish I could get this waiting thing down to a graceful and peaceful attitude. I KNOW God is in control. I KNOW He has a perfect plan. But since we were all geared up to bring the boys home in December, January drug by as painfully as possible. We have fired our original adoption agency, and are pursuing legal action against her. While researching her agency further this year, we have found numerous individuals who are doing the same thing. Sad. Frustrating. Down right disgusting that any agency would use children as pawns to further their own individual lives, while putting the orphans at risk. I am more mad each time I have to deal with any paperwork in regards to the agency that has messed up an entire year for us and our boys.

I have a wonderful lady now in an agency in California that has been AWESOME! If there is any hope in an agency, it's with her. I am more and more amazed that the boys are growing and still holding well during this time. They have wonderful foster families in Africa that care so much for them. That consoles me, although I know there are many things they can not get there that they need here. I just keep praying for that miracle, but the news that changes day to day puts us farther away instead of closer to them. Sigh.

I am a huge advocate for adoption. But it is surely not for the weak of heart! It's HARD! I know this is why alot of well meaning families stop the process to adoption. It's too many steps and too emotional to hang on week after week. Since meeting the boys I have had several people tell me maybe I misunderstood Gods plan. Maybe I was just meant to KNOW of their needs and become advocates for all the children, not actually meant to adopt these boys. Well, as neat and tidy as that may seem to some people, these boys are not just pictures I have seen or stories I have heard. I spent a year of my life praying for them, preparing for them, and holding them on two different occasions, promising them I will return to bring them home. They have been a huge part of our life plan for more than a year, they have beds and clothes and toys waiting for them here. I have secured doctors and talked to specialists about their care. I have purchased equipment for their therapies and spent hours researching their health issues. We have spent hard earned monies so I could go be with them twice last year, and I have spent more than one night, sleepless, either in worry or prayer for them both.

I have done my best to keep things normal around here for the rest of the family (whatever normal is!). Bella asks most every day when the boys are coming home. In her little heart it's been way too long also. Our plans keep being weighed against the "unless I am in africa then" statement, and to be honest, I am pretty sick of it all.

But my committment to the boys never changes. I can not fathom our future without them in it, and I can't believe I could ever STOP pursuing them. My daughter is law said it best: If these were one of the children that you already had/have, would you walk away from any of their lives just because it got hard to deal with?

NO.. NO...NO. I know in my heart they are as much mine as any of the others who are officially so. But to my blogging and praying friends, please keep it up. My friends who have adopted you know the pain of uncertainty. Please keep praying. For family and friends who are tired of hearing me whine, please keep praying. I am embarrassed to feel so vulnerable. But for some reason, God has choosen this timing in our lives, and for that reason alone, I keep praying.

For health, safety, grace and mercy. For me, my family and my african boys.
I really want to report soon that I am coming home with them. Your prayers will make it happen.