Run, Stress. Go Away.

“One of the virtues of being very young is that you don’t let the facts get in the way of your imagination.” ~ Sam Levenson

Stress is a funny thing. It moves you out of your comfort zone, ready or not.

The first definition stresses my point — ahem, I mean emphasizes my point. The eighth meaning can seem challenging given it can stretch you to the point of pain.

. . .

Stress (stres) n.

1. “importance of significance attached to a thing.”

8. “physical, mental or emotional strain or tension.”

(Merriam Webster’s)

. . .
Prior to Kiddo I took summers off for over a decade, unplugging, unwinding, and refining.

For the first few years, I resisted. I was stuck in victim mode with a whole lot of drama going on.

The last few years were much more liberating. I birthed my three best-sellers, learned to fall madly in love with silence, and got so in tune with nature I had birds tapping on my window whenever they ran out of seed.

But all that became secondary when Kiddo arrived. I spent so many hours taking care of “them” in fact that last summer was a bit like a triage with one continuous crisis after another.

Looking back, I can see a lot of progress has been made: I have more time to write, no longer feel exhausted the way I once did, and am way more experienced as a parent. You might say we have both graduated pre-school (LOL). I can even tell the difference now between a genuine cry of lamentation and an exaggerated cry used for attention and manipulation.

Yay for me! 🙂

Despite all this though, up until recent, I was so wound tight I was missing out on the wonders of relaxation. And Kiddo must have sensed it . . .

Picture this.

It is dinner time and I have just told Kiddo I need a few minutes of silence as we finish our meal.

Kiddo’s face is stained with spaghetti sauce, and “them” has a piece of paper toweling folded into the collar of a t-shirt with a forkful of noodles hanging out of the mouth.

I, on the other hand, am disengaged with a look of constipation on my face because I am so consumed in thought. I am so serious in fact I barely even notice the radio transitioning to another song until Kiddo starts doing some kind of a chair-twist dance then loudly sings.

“Shhh,” I say seriously, lifting my finger to my lips and feeling perturbed that my minute of silence was disturbed.

As the music picks up the beat, Kiddo starts to lips sync – staying quiet as I asked- and then exaggerates the playing of an air guitar.

I cannot help but stifle a grin.

Kiddo notices and uses this as an opportunity to start mouthing the song lyrics even larger which was very comical given the tucked-in napkin and spaghetti face.

My grin turns to laughter and I join in, moving my fingers across a pretend keyboard on my plate.

“Them” then turns over the microphone-fork so we both can share in the singing.

My summer is fun in a whole new way.

——

ete

 

 

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


 

 

Inside Out

“Motherhood is the greatest thing and the hardest thing.” ~ Ricki Lake

Three times in the last month I have bumped into someone who has read keenmom.com and stopped to tell me they are a fan. Thank you. This was very encouraging, and I am grateful, because comments ranged from, “I anxiously await your story every month,” to “I follow you and Kiddo by secretly stalking you online,” and “I can’t wait to hear some more good news about ‘them’.”

All things considering, Kiddo is amazingly well: growing up so fast, making milestone improvements in less than a year and a half, and is daringly courageous and imaginative and full of bright energy.

I, on the other hand, feel like I’m a pin ball bouncing back and forth between ‘second wind city’ and ‘barely sane.’ Because the truth is, motherhood is hard. And even as I type this the spiritual side of me wants to go back and cross out the word ‘hard’ and replace it with ‘challenging’ instead because the word ‘hard’ feels like it’s too negative or too much of a downer. So at the very least I feel compelled to redo the sentence altogether and say that motherhood has its fair share of ups and downs but it’s overall rewarding. Or that motherhood isn’t for the weak but is a blessing from God-Source in disguise.

Yet the reality is that motherhood contains a lot of feelings, doesn’t it?

In fact, very recently I rewatched the movie “Inside Out,” and was reminded how every feeling is working together hand-in-hand.

So here are some of my ‘Sad’ moments:
Kiddo has a long road ahead. In addition to being in and out of doctors and hospitals for the next several years, “them” continues to ask us questions about the past, recently crying in my arms asking me “mama why did X and others do what they did?” and “why did my birthparents leave me?” and “do others kids have to go through this?”

So, yes, I feel sad because these questions are painful and because I want our life to be simple and it is not.

And here are some of my ‘Disgust’ moments:
A week or so ago I made the mistake of comparing my kiddo to a handful of others the same age. My ego had a field day with this.

Mental chatter sounded a lot like this . . . “Wow. Your kid is really behind. How embarrassing. So much for all the hard work you’ve put in. Worse yet your kid doesn’t even fit in. Just look how delayed they are compared to everyone else. And don’t even get me started on all the medical issues. What a shame. How pathetic that you really thought you could help them and you can’t. They will never catch up. You’re just setting yourself up for failure. You’re both losers.”

And then my Fear’ moments kicked in:
I began to fear everything my ego said is right. Because yes, I do have a fear Kiddo won’t be able to be independent like others kids and won’t be able to safely cross a street, ride a bike, drive a car or land a job that allows “them” to live on their own.

And the biggest fear of all is that no matter how hard I try to help, it won’t ever be enough.

And then I have my ‘Anger’ moments:
I feel angry that I can’t fix “them” and I can’t erase this kiddo’s past, and I can’t mend this child’s broken heart.

And most of all I feel angry that I cannot stretch my patience when I have no more patience to give, and so I lock myself in the bedroom and cry for a few minutes, or I scream into the toilet with the fan on high.

Because the truth is I feel angry that “them” is behind due to a very abusive past, and am angry for even thinking about being angry because I know anger is just a cover up for all of the other feelings that I feel that want to be expressed but cannot because it is taking center stage.

And so I focus on my ’Joy’ moments by returning myself to gratitude:
I am joyful that my husband and I have a child in our life who is indeed an answer to our prayers and gives us a deeper reason for existence.

I am joyful that Kiddo is beating the odds and is speaking in a way that can be understood, openly shares feelings, is bonding with toys and us, and every now and again gives us sassy talk which is a healthy indicator that our child feels safe enough to test boundaries and is gaining a safe sense of independence.

And most of all I feel joyful that I can express myself in this way. I feel joyful knowing I have friends and family out there who really care. I feel joy that even though not many people understand what I’m truly going through, they still take the time to let me know they are cheering us on, sending us their prayers, and encourage us to remember the most important feeling of all – Love.

Love is what exists when we get out of our own way
Love is what this journey is all about
Love is warm kisses and a gentle embrace
Love is hearing “mama I love you” every day
Love is watching my child struggle and then succeed
Love is losing my patience and then admitting my mistake
Love is trusting that life happens as it should
Love is accepting all there is
Love is surrendering to the moment
Love is now, now is love

——

ete

 

 

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


 

 

Sabotaging Self – Part 1

“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” ~ Alyce Cornyn-Selby

So, Kiddo woke up to some small gifts, happy at first to see the presents in the stocking, and then slowly began to destroy the joy.  

And like a crab in slow boiling pot, I didn’t even realize what was happening until it was almost too late.

At first “them” was having fun with one of the gifts, sitting and playing and laughing, the natural thing to do.

After some time though I gave two more minutes, saying we had an appointment that couldn’t be missed. I explained the next couple of minutes could be used to finish up playing OR we could work together quickly to get ready and then use the rest of the time to play.

Kiddo chose that we hurry so there was enough time to play. “Great idea,” I said.

Truthfully, we had plenty of time before the appointment, so I wasn’t very concerned either way, yet Kiddo’s unconscious mind had plans of its own.

Part way through getting dressed, “them” began to slow down to the pace of a lethargic snail. I had all I could do to keep prompting with a patient smile.

“Everything okay?” I asked as calmly as could be.

Kiddo nodded then finished getting dressed.

A few minutes later, we were eating, and same thing — Kiddo began staring off into space and then stopped chewing altogether. It was so out of character I began to grow concerned.

I checked Kiddo for a fever and almost had myself convinced that “them” must be sick, but there was no indication of that being the case.

“I see you’re eating really slow. Could you go faster please?” I asked.

“Yes mama,” I was told, but as soon as I got up to feed the dogs, the snail-pace continued. It was like watching a slow motion scene on a screen.

Soon we were almost out of time, so I tried something new. I starting using the stocking’s contents as a lure.  “You told me you really wanted to play with your new toys, correct?”

Kiddo nodded. “Then I’ll need you to start mover faster,” I encouraged.

Though this led to a finishing of breakfast, when it came time to brush teeth, Kiddo stopped moving altogether and just stared into the mirror.

So I said what most parents would, “I see you are staring into the mirror and I’m happy you like looking at yourself. Right now though I need you to brush your teeth good and fast if you still want to play with one of your toys.”

Kiddo began to cry, refused to cooperate, pulled pants down to sit on the toilet with head in hands only to admit, “I don’t hafta’ go.”

I knelt down to this child and looked deeply into this little Kiddo’s eyes. They were sad, and that’s when I finally recognized what was happening.

Having a child who is traumatized is difficult enough but holidays and special occasions contain triggers with even bigger challenges.

Kiddo was self-sabotaging. — Stuck in a conflict between a conscious desire and an unconscious want that results in patterns of self-destruction.

And now that I knew that, I knew what to do . . .

——

ete

Part 2 coming soon

Dog- Tired Part 2

“It’s a great feeling when your work is appreciated.” ~ Jacqueline Fernandez

For the most part, Kiddo’s been progressing really well. On some days, doing much better than hubby or me. Because at this point in the story the honeymoon stage of fostering was at its end, and my inner Snapperhead snapped because I was dog-tired.

Steve agreed to let me sleep in the next day, which was the first time in a few months.

I awoke to the sounds of Kiddo having a meltdown. From what I could tell, Steve was handling it well, yet I wondered if I should still get up.

My intuition said to stay in bed.

Moments later, I heard Steve start to move down the hall. “Get dressed while I get going on breakfast,” he said.

Kiddo replied with a lot of sassy talk.

Steve’s footsteps returned.

“You may not speak to me that way,” I heard him say. “Now get dressed like I asked.”

More whining . . .
More crying . . .

I pulled back the covers to get up. My intuition prompted me to sit still and listen in.

Steve then asked Kiddo, “Do you need a hug?”

I didn’t hear anymore crying, so I laid back down.

“You better?” I heard Steve ask.

Kiddo giggled with a yes.

“Good. Now please get dressed.”

Steve’s footsteps passed the bedroom and into the kitchen. The refrigerator peeled open followed by the sounds of coffee brewing and cupboards closing

I shut my eyes, feeling grateful I had a little more time to rest.

Half awake and half asleep, I was later jolted by something banging.

Steve was crying out in pain. “Ow! Open the door.”

I scrambled to my feet and peered across the hall. Steve was bent over, holding Kiddo’s door with one hand while cradling his leg with the other.

Kiddo was pushing against the door with all “them’s” might.

Being bigger, my husband could open the door, but as he moved toward the bedroom, Kiddo swung at his face and began kicking him hard.

Though Steve handled it well and we all talked as a family to address the behaviors and feelings, when it was all over, my husband was exhausted both emotionally and physically.

“I am sorry,” he said to me a little later, when we had some time to ourselves. “I didn’t know how bad it could be until I walked a mile in your moccasins.”

I hugged him and accepted his apology.

The next morning Steve kissed my forehead and told me what an amazing mom I am. Then just as I sat up so I could go tend to Kiddo, he lovingly encouraged me to continue sleeping in.

After my hubby left the room and closed the door, I seriously considered his offer.

Although catching more zzz’s was most tempting, deep down I knew what I had to do.

Dog-tired or not, we are a team.

So I joined him and shared in the morning routine.

——

ete

Dog-Tired Part 1

“If you’re completely exhausted and don’t know how you’re going to keep giving this much of yourself day after day, you’re probably a good parent.” ~ Bunmi Laditan

So it happened. My patience gave out and I yelled hard.

Hubby and kiddo were gone. I  had a small window of free time and was so grateful for the silence I almost cried.

Though deep down I had known I’ve been grieving solitude, I had been far too busy to process it all.

Head’s up: My pent up feeling were about to have a field day!

“You’re becoming a snapper head,” my husband Steve had said the night before. It’s the name I’ve asked him to call me when I’m acting like a “B.”

“I know it” I admitted, “and I’m sorry, but all these responsibilities are starting to take a toll.”

Steve laughed. “Whatever. Just please stop making me walk on eggshells, okay? Besides, how hard can staying home be?”

I did my best to explain but he didn’t get it. For 10 straight months I’ve been knee deep in playtime, bath time, bed time, and meal time day after day plus running Kiddo to at least 3-4 doctor, counselor, therapist and specialist appointments per week.

For anyone who has every been the primary caregiver of a child with special needs, I understand how exhausting it can be.

And now, with a moment to myself,  I was determined to relax no matter what.

I moved to my office downstairs. My desk was covered in receipts. It had been months since I was able to reconcile the books or file the bills.

Tension moved through my shoulders and tight neck.

Staring at the futon, I sighed. Should I take a nap? When was the last time I had gotten at least 8 hours of sleep?

My head turned toward the laundry. I winced. Wet clothes were in the washer, another pile on the dryer, and when I opened the hamper it too was full.

Stress stacked up inside me with no escape.

Then the dogs started barking from the back yard- the kind of bark that goes right through you – the kind that makes you cringe because you cannot help but wonder what your neighbors might think.

I took a deep breath, hoping it might calm me down, but the dogs kept yelping so loud it pierced my ears.

“Ahhh!” I loudly shouted, running to the window on the lower floor. I spotted some turkeys near the front of the house.

The barking persisted and would’t let up.

I took a flight of stairs so I could let both pets inside. As I opened the door, one of the dogs ran past me and left a long trail of mud on all the floors.

I screamed. I yelled. I lost my sh*t.  I was aware of my volume and didn’t care.

——

ete

Part 2 coming soon . . .