Windows of Love

“The most divine gift a child gives you is the expansion and growth of your own heart.” – Shamanic Astrologer, Andrea Bryant

I was talking with my friend Andrea recently.

“How are other parents doing it?” I partially asked and partially vented. “Two weeks off over Christmas followed by a federal holiday then another day off for a teacher service day plus one day of the flu and a snow day too. I don’t know of any employer in the valley who is that flexible. Thank goodness I work from home!”

“I know it,” she agreed. “That is why so many parents bring their kids back to school sick, because they don’t really have a choice. It really helps me appreciate stay-at-home parents all the more.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “I am fortunate that I work for myself, but all these days off in a row are causing me to go a little stir crazy.” We laughed.

“The plus side is,” I continued “I’m learning to be way more patient than I was two years ago.”

“And your heart will just keep opening more and more,” Andrea assured. “Because kids have this amazing way of stretching your auric field.”

Since I wasn’t quite understanding she continued.

“When my first son was born I gave him all my love,” she shared. “It felt like I had nothing left to give. So when I got pregnant with my second son I worried I wouldn’t love him enough because my heart was already full. But after I held my second son for the first time, another window of love opened, and I was loving him just as much. And though it’s still a mystery,” she smiled “the windows of love keep on opening, because the auric field just continues to grow.”

As I tucked Kiddo into bed later that night, I reflected on more of Andrea’s insightful words. “The most divine gift a child gives you is the expansion and growth of your own heart.”

Smiling, I kissed Kiddo on the forehead, being sure to give thanks for all of the beautiful windows of love we continue to share.

ETE

PS: I continue to refer to my daughter as “Kiddo” out of respect for her individual safety and privacy.

Mirroring Mirror

“Echo is the voice of a reflection in a mirror” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

It was a pretty typical morning as far as routine goes, only this time Kiddo was moving as slow as frozen molasses taking over 3 hours to bathe, get dressed and make her bed. “Finish your breakfast please,” I said, “then bring your bowl to the sink and brush your teeth.”

“Okay Mama,” was her reply. I then headed down the stairs to finish up some laundry.

Ten minutes later I found Kiddo crawling on the floor with the dogs. Her cereal was still untouched and teeth not brushed.

“So I noticed you have been horsing around a lot” I said approaching her, “and now your bad choices are causing us to run late.”

Though I had already brought each incident to her attention as they occurred, I began listing out each of my complaints once again:

1. Playing in the bathtub without first washing up only to have the water turn cold and then complaining; 2. Not making your bed but instead rolling with your covers on the floor; 3. Taking over an hour to get dressed and still coming out to the kitchen half naked; 4. Spinning around under the table with the dogs rather than eating and brushing your teeth like I asked.

Seeing we had less than twenty minutes left, I put on my “Micromanager Mom” hat. “If you want to arrive with yucky breath that is up to you,” I said. “But I am leaving as soon as I am done brushing my teeth.”

As I reached for my toothbrush and toothpaste, I could see my daughter glancing at herself in the mirror with a look of judgment on her face.

Any other day I might have missed this teachable moment, but this week I have been doing some mirror exercises and self talk techniques, so I was able to notice my daughter was learning to criticize herself for the choices she had made.

A caption of her facial expression might read, “You are a screw up. Can’t you ever get anything right?”

I knew beating myself up for this wasn’t the answer, so I used this as an opportunity to remember some common false beliefs: believing you never measure up no matter what, believing no matter what you do is never enough, believing you can never do anything right, believing you need to be perfect in order be deserving of love.

“You know,” I said, catching her eye in the mirror. “It really doesn’t matter what I think or what your dad thinks when it comes to your choices, you know. What really matters is what YOU think.”

I rinsed my toothbrush then got down to my daughter’s level so I could lovingly look her in the eye “Kiddo, you are perfect exactly as you are,” I said, “And it is really important you remember to be your own best friend, even when things get messy, okay?”

Kiddo’s frown turned into a smile as she began modeling some mirror work for me to see: “I love myself,” she said, “And mistakes mean I am learning and growing, right?”

I began to laugh “Yes, that’s right, and I am really sorry that I told you your choices were bad. They are just information,” I said.

We then spoke about her playing with the dogs rather than eating all her breakfast.

“I still feel a little hungry,” she said.

We then went through the remainder of the list, only this time my daughter discerned for herself how each of her choices had impacted her morning.

“Mama,” she said holding me close, “I don’t want to horse around in the morning anymore.”

“Awww,” I returned her hug then looked at her through the mirror. “Just keep loving yourself no matter what. It’s all okay.”

ETE

PS: For those of you wondering, I still choose to call my daughter “Kiddo” here out of respect for her individual privacy.

A Forever Family

“He is mine in a way that he will never be hers. He is hers in a way that he will never be mine. And together we are motherhood.” – Desha Wood

“To adopt means to “legally take another’s child and bring it up as one’s own.” (Webster’s dictionary)

My husband and I took Kiddo’s hand and headed to the court room. So much had led up to this adoption day. For weeks I had toggled back and forth about whether becoming a forever family was in the best interest of all involved.

Was I making the right choice? Would the love I could offer this kiddo as ‘mother’ be enough?

“It feels like I should be loving this child more than I am,” I said to my mother just days before. My mom lovingly reassured me my child needs me, and the love I feel would keep growing over time.”

On many levels she was right. I had already turned to two other mom friends for advice. One helped me understand that most new mothers have a chance to bond with their baby for 9 months while in utero, then deliver a baby filled with love that is pure and absolute.

Another reassured me that my kiddo’s need to hate and fight at times was much like a feral animal filled with terror. The bruises on my skin and in my heart would eventually go away.

Yet despite all these wise words, I still found myself grappling with uncertainty right up to the night before our trial date.

Pouring my heart out to other foster/adoptive parents I asked,
“How do you know you are ready to adopt? I keep questioning if the love I can offer is enough.”

The outpouring of love and support I received was immense:

“It took me longer to bond with my child then the other two we adopted for many reasons but I now love him, delight in his strengths, accomplishments, his love for others, his relationship with each member of our family . . . (the list went on and on)”

“Love is a choice. I have spent many a day praying for God to help me. Hang in there. This is a calling not just a romance.”

“All my children have come to us through adoption (none through birth) and all at different emotional and developmental stages. Each bond has been unique, coming in its own time, no right or wrong, just uniquely. Some felt fast and others took much longer. Who says our love and bond has to be instant? Thank you so much for sharing your heart.”

“Doubt is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Love can move mountains. It’s just such a slow process when you have trauma, abuse or attachment issues. Praying for your strength and clarity.”

Now here I was just moments from being sworn in and still a little doubt remained.

God must have known it too, because as soon as we walked into the courthouse waiting room, our caseworker pointed us back outside.

“We have a big problem,” she said. “Kiddo’s birth mom is here.”

A flood of emotions filled my heart. Were we in danger? How come she missed the termination hearing? Was she here to take back custody?

Silently I said a prayer. “Dear God, though it may break me, if it is in the best interest of our child to stay with the birth mom, I promise to be strong and let go.”

Several long minutes later, law enforcement asked the birth mom to leave. It was then I knew I had a choice: either ignore this woman as she passed us on the sidewalk, or offer her compassion and closure with a loving heart.

“You are kiddo’s birth mom, correct?” I asked as she neared.

She nodded with tears in her eyes.

“May I hug you?” I asked.

With her permission I held her, then genuinely thanked her for giving Kiddo birth.

I then watched her weep in gratitude before saying goodbye to her baby one last time.

As we approached the court room, our caseworker shared that the mom showed up to make sure her child was happy and would be going to a good home.

Every ounce of my being then knew with certainty that I am safe to love my DAUGHTER now and forever, and to call her my own.

ETE

Date Night

“Keep the fire lit in your marriage and your life will be filled with warmth.” ~ Fawn Weaver

I keep smiling as I write this, because my husband, Steven, and I just had one of those “curl your toes” kind of overnight dates where we both felt like new lovers again.

After saying goodbye to Kiddo and the dogs, we jumped on our Harley Davidson (HD) and headed to Missoula, Montana for a Sheryl Crow concert. I was elated!

This was our first out-of-town date without Kiddo, and I felt so much joy that as soon as the HD picked up some speed, I outstretched my arms to sing praises for our newfound freedom. Steve smiled at me through the side mirror then gunned the gas and we headed out toward the freeway.

It felt so good to finally have some time to ourselves. This was our FIRST real date since we began fostering 18 months ago. Though we had attempted to leave for a short night out last winter, a brutal blizzard stopped us in our tracks quite literally.

Now it was just us and the wide open road. Tension began melting from our bodies with every mile and by the time we checked into our AirBnB, we had worked up quite an appetite.

After taking an Uber downtown, we enjoyed some BBQ at a local hangout then checked out a fun brewery where we toasted to our marriage then took a few selfies and snuck in some kisses in-between.

A text from the sitter let us know Kiddo was requesting we virtually tuck ‘them’ in, so Steve hopped on the phone as I downloaded some photos to social media.

Looking up, I see the biggest smile. My handsome guy was holding out a bowl of Montana made ice-cream and offering a bite to me. Such a romantic and sweet treat!

We then caught a ride to the concert so we could indulge in a few more adult beverages responsibly.

The concert was amazing. Way more than I could have ever dreamed. Not only because we got to experience the great music from the front row, but because Steve and I gelled the entire time.

Everything was in perfect flow.

By the time we crawled into bed, it was after 1 a.m. and we made love most of the morning until we glowed.

I would be lying if I told you I was missing my child at this point. The truth is, I was thoroughly enjoying my husband, and we were stretching out every minute we could taking our time to return back home. From a nice breakfast to a walk along the lake to sampling fresh picked cherries and enjoying the warm summer’s day, we were taking full advantage of this well-deserved date.

Because we had parked our car near the sitters which is at the the end of town, Steve rolled the HD next to it as we pulled in.

After hopping off the bike, I gave my husband a long kiss goodbye. Even though we knew we would be seeing each other in just a short while, these were our last few moments of sacredness.

“I have to return now to my wife and kids,” Steve lovingly teased. His tone of dread was so funny that I laughed

I kissed him again then played along. “I’ll really miss you my sexy lover,” I said.

As I drove to the sitters I felt so giddy.

And then . . . reality hit.

Though Kiddo might have also needed some time away, “them” was more likely upset that we had left because when I arrived Kiddo was acting as though I wasn’t even there then continued to ignore me when it was time to leave.

This I could handle. This I could expect. I was calm enough to be coaxing and kind.

But the moment we got into the car, the really big meltdowns began.

Kiddo began crying, and kicking and screaming and refused to put on the seat belt. I tried to assist and was kicked and slapped. Then the yelling began. “I am jealous! I am jealous!” — Full on screaming in my ears.

When I pulled into the driveway, I was a wreck.
Steve, on the other hand, was still beaming from ear-to-ear.

In no time though, he could see from my face that I had quickly been tossed from a warm, chill-axing beach right into the eye of a hurricane.

I then showered so he could take over.

As the warm water flowed over my body, I could hear Kiddo yelling and Steve doing his best to calm “them” down.

A little later when Steve and I had a few minutes to ourselves, I embraced him around the neck then said, “I can now understand why some people question their marriage. Had you or I really been with someone else this entire time and then returned home to this . . . wow!”

Steve knowingly nodded.

Then later that evening we promised each other we would schedule more date nights from here on out so our pilot lights never go out.

ETE

 

 

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)