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

Sweet Child Of Mine

“Children are mirrors; they reflect back to us all we say and do.” ~ Pam Leo

For whatever reason I haven’t slept soundly for several weeks, so after a very long day as of late, I began to reflect on my day.

Up at 6 am, out the door by 7:30, first appointment until 8:15, dog park to exercise dogs, run errands until 10 am, sit down for a snack, second appointment from 11 to 12:30, lunch, catch up on bills and do laundry, out the door again by 2:30 to see third specialist until 4:15, then stop at the grocery store.

Being tired, I should have called it quits from there, but I promised Kiddo we would go to a community event that was taking place outdoors from 5 until 8.

I checked the clock. It was 4:45. Though I knew we might be one of the first to arrive, I hoped to make an appearance then leave.

We had to park a couple of blocks away then walk across black asphalt in 90 degree weather. I wasn’t even sure where to go, so I grabbed the invitation and Kiddo’s hand as we strode past all the people and wound our way over to the tents. The flyer in my hand indicated there was a bouncy house, so as soon as Kiddo spotted it, we headed in that direction only to be told it was $1 per minute to go in.

Though I had a little money with me, I really wasn’t expecting to have to pay.

I looked at Kiddo who was in a starting block position, with arms bent and feet ready to run inside the inflatable.

“Can you break a ten?” I asked the attendant, wiping the sweat and humidity from my face.

“Sorry” was the answer. “I forgot to bring change.”

I looked around to see if anyone near us could help us out. People started looking away or shaking their heads.

At this point you might be wondering if I handed over that ten bucks and let Kiddo start jumping to “their” heart’s desire.

Nope. I was way too hot and exhausted for that.

“I’m very sorry honey,” I said to Kiddo taking “them’s” hand. “I didn’t think to bring any change so we need to leave.”

Rather than throw a fit, Kiddo sweetly walked with me back to the car. I was so grateful I almost cried.

“I’m really sorry you didn’t get to go into the bouncy house,” I said as I tucked “them” into bed later that night.

Kiddo encircled my neck with loving arms. “It’s okay mama. We all make mistakes. Just try not to let it happen again.”

I still smile every time I think of it.

ETE

 

 

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

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.)

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.)


 

 

Sabotaging Self – Conclusion

“Self-sabotage is the smartest thing you can do if you’re sabotaging a self that is not really you.” ~ Armand DiMele

Recently my husband, Steven, nicknamed our Kiddo “Giggles” because there is so much smiling and laughing and love in our family.

We knew from some trainings that Kiddo’s self-sabotage was due to shame and a false belief that “them” was unworthy of love and belonging. With time and consistency, Steve and I have continued to teach our child how to give and receive love openly, yet little did we know it was also a work-on for ourselves . . .

There we were, just my husband and me, on a late Tuesday morning, hooking up our trailer to our truck and heading up the mountain to do a little snowmobiling. In tow were our two new used sleds that Steve had picked up a few days before. In fact, this photo was taken just as we fired them up to head off the grid.

I was a little hesitant to go, mainly because I had been sick in bed with walking pneumonia for a week and I was just getting back into routine.

After traveling up the mountain for a couple of miles though, I started to find my groove.

Other than having to pull over to put on a warmer face mask, things were looking good — the snowy road narrowed and the sleds throttled on, and I turned back every few minutes to be sure my husband was still on his own sled behind.

Twenty or so minutes later our sleds crossed our main bridge that connects to the driveway of our bungalow home. A short time later we were dismounting our snowmobiles and waist deep in loose powder that hadn’t been packed down before.

Steve and I were so grateful we had just a few steps to crawl before we made it to the house. So much snow had fallen since we had been there last fall – – more than we ever remember seeing since we moved to the mountains in 2006.

After checking the roof and seeing the house was still okay, we both got back on our sleds to head back out the same way we came in. A few feet from the main road I began to cross the bridge and started losing speed. My tracks sank deep into the loose powder and I was rolled off the sled into the snow.

“I’m sorry,” Steve yelled from behind as I hit my kill switch. “I should have told you to go faster up the hill.” I shrugged it off and waited for him to crawl through the hip high snow toward me to help. After a few minutes of unsuccessful coaching, Steve had me walk back to his sled so he could do his best to rock mine out.

Clumsily I fought my way through the cold powder and toward his sled which was about 20 feet below. Every step was up to my waist so I was grateful when I could finally reach the handle bars to hoist myself up. But as I sat down, my arm hit the power button and I turned the sled off.

“Ahhh,” Steve yelled. “What did you do that for?” I tried explaining it was an accident, but he wasn’t having it. He was already cold and tired from wrestling with my sled.

Frustrated, he struggled through the snow. A few minutes later he was finally pulling himself up beside me so he could yank on his sled’s starter cord. But as he pulled, the cable snapped.

Fear and panic quickly shot through him as he looked down at his hand and saw just a plastic handle and broken cord dangling there.

I was so shocked I laughed. “Really?” I said. “Is this a cosmic joke?” But Steve found nothing funny about it. In fact, when I looked into his eyes, I could see he was doing all he could not to cry.

Panic then took over. “Can you fix it?” I said.

Steve sadly shook his head. “I don’t have the tools.” And even though we were less than a mile to our bungalow, the snow was too loose and too deep for us to walk.

“All we can do now is to try to ride your sled out of here,” Steve explained. And so for over an hour, we pushed and we pulled on my snowmobile, and, sadly, I chose to also guilt my husband for not remembering to bring a shovel.

Finally we got my sled to budge, and no sooner than we started to rejoice, the belt began to burn up and my sled clonked out. Yep. No joke. It was fried.

Steve and I were beside ourselves. We had no way to repair it, no tools. We cussed and we cursed and we yelled at the sleds, at each other and at ourselves, but that didn’t change the fact that we would have to walk down that mountain if we had any chance at getting out of there alive.

No cell service for at least seven miles. No skiis, no snow shoes, and the winter gear we were wearing was all we had.

Our first thought was to head to a neighbors just 2 miles up the road. Less than 1/16 mile in though we realized the snow was not compact enough to walk. If we attempted to keep moving we would be buried for sure.

“Are you bleeding?” I yelled to Steve who was just a few feet ahead. I could see red globules in the snow. “Yes,” he called back. “I’m getting dehydrated so my nose is bleeding. It’s probably the elevation. I have a couple of water bottles in my backpack. Just wait there.”

A few minutes later he joined my side. We shared a water and began our trek, grateful that even though the snow was deep, it was packed down just enough from our sleds that we could begin walking out on foot.

Fifty minutes later I was cold sweating and my legs were cramped. We had only made it a mile and from our calculations we had at least six more miles to go before our cells would pick up a signal. “We need to move faster,” Steve said, “Kiddo will be back home in less than 3 hours and at this rate it will take us five hours to make it to the truck.”

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t walk any faster. My body was slowing shutting down.

“Keep going,” Steve urged. He could see I was losing momentum and was doing his best to urge me on.

An hour later, even his leg muscles were shot. It was like walking on jelly. “You need to go on without me,” I said. “You are our only hope of getting out of here alive.”

Steve began to shake his head. “I am so sorry,” he said with tears in his eyes. “I should have never taken us up here. I should have never bought those sleds.”

“Please,” I begged. “You need to keep going.” And he knew I was right.

For the next few minutes he held my gaze as he walked on up ahead.

Just before losing sight of him, I shouted. “I love you and always will.”

Rather than answer, he trudged on ahead. (later he told me he couldn’t say it back because it would have made it too real.)

Then just like that he was gone. It was now just me, my thoughts, and the mountain. The same mountain that I have escaped to every summer. The same mountain that has held me during my hardest hours. The same mountain that midwifed my four books as I brought them into creation.

Would I die on this same mountain today?

As I walked, I began to think about all the things my husband and I have endured. From our motorcycle trip to Alaska to finally writing my first novel based on that experience so many years ago. The addictions, the darkness, and the drama.

Life as we knew it was still a struggle. Why did we still bicker and fight? Why couldn’t I allow myself to love him as deeply as I knew I could?

The more I walked, the more I understood. We were finally at a point in our marriage where life is good. Two homes, two dogs, financial stability, and a child who really needs us, yet the more real it had become, the more I had pushed the joy away.

All truth be told, I was afraid. Releasing that book meant having to accept my past…from my drama and rage to Steve’s addiction to drugs, to admitting our marriage was filled with darkness for so many years.

Just thinking about it caused me to cough. And the more I coughed, the more my lungs began filling with fluid. After awhile I became too weak to move, and so I removed my backpack and used it to prop myself back in the cold snow, knowing full well my chances of freezing to death were increasing, but a part of me didn’t care.

I closed my eyes against the setting sun and began to face my own mortality. Was I ready to die?

“Get up,” I heard. It was the voice of God-source. “If you don’t keep moving, you will freeze to death.”

As I managed to pull myself up, I caught a glimpse of my husband’s footprints in the snow. These prints became my lifeline for awhile.

An hour or so later I was very weak. I could hardly feel my feet and my gloved fingertips were wet and starting to freeze.

“He just got a cell signal,” I was told. It was God-Source speaking to me again.

I was grateful to know Steve had made it closer to the truck. From what I could tell I still had over three miles to walk before I would catch up to him.

As I began wheezing and coughing up phlegm, I began to wonder who would raise my child if I was gone? Steve and I had just been informed the adoption was approved and that it is just a matter of paperwork now. Yet would I make it off that mountain to see that day come?

I removed my backpack (my shoulders were in so much pain), and fell back into the snow.

“Get up,” I heard a minute or so later. This time God-Source’s voice was really loud. “You MUST keep moving or you WILL freeze to death.”

I somehow managed to pull myself up, glancing several times at the disappearing sun knowing from my cell phone clock that I had less than an hour of daylight left.

After several more minutes I saw that I had a “1X” bar on my phone. It gave me hope. I tried dialing 911 again and again but the cell signal wasn’t strong enough to hold.

Despite this, I got a second wind. I managed to walk another 1/2 mile even with my coughing and liquid filled lungs. My cell had a stronger signal and so I attempted to send a text. “Is Kiddo safe?” I wrote to Steve, but the bars were too weak for it to send.

Ahhhh! I felt defeated. I fell back in the snow hoping and praying help would come, but at that moment it wasn’t meant to be.

I had no choice but to lie there or pull myself up. “Get up,” God urged me, and so I did.

My legs were heavy and my lungs were weak. The sun was now set and the freezing temps and shadows had moved in. I was so cold I could see my breath and my mind was starting to become delirious. I began sway walking, barely making ground, yet I moved just enough to get a 3G on my cell.

Yes! My text went through and before I knew it Steve was texting back. Kiddo was safe and help was on the way.

I managed to hike 6.5 miles that day. Steve hiked just shy of 8 and still has blisters on his feet. Our lives will never be the same.

After help came, I was reunited with my husband. The first thing he did was pull me into his arms and say, “I don’t ever want to fight with you again. Life is too short and I love you so much.”

I now hug him tighter, love him longer, and cherish what we have. Though, yes we did have times in our life that caused me to question my worth and I held back in loving him as deeply as I knew I could because I still feared being hurt, that part of me died on that mountain that day, along with the me that fears what others think and the me that kept holding back, and the me who wondered if she would ever be “good enough” as a wife or as a mother. I now know better because I am better.

Yes, self sabotage can be good when it allows the old you to die so a new you can fully rebirth. Our experience this week has made me a stronger woman who knows why she is here . . . not only to be a great mother to my child and a wonderful wife to my husband, but also to live my life’s purpose and to bring more love, unity, and miracles into this world! God is good!
——

ete

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 . . .

An Imperfectly-Perfect New Arrangement

“Every time I change the way I explain myself to myself, I have to rearrange the story of my life.” ~Mason Cooley

 

It’s been said we can never step into the same current twice, yet for most of us we can at least predict the level of the water and how it flows.  – That is until a child like Kiddo comes into your life . . .

Nine months ago our river was redirected and our lives overturned. Little did I know my life would look the way it does today.

After Kiddo arrived, I had to grieve on and off in order to mourn my old life and give room for celebration of the new.

A marriage counselor shared this some time ago: “When a child comes into the picture, it’s like mixing up a mosaic. All the pieces you started with are still there but the perception shifts because the pieces are rearranged.” ~ Gina E.

Even today I keep breathing around each river bend. . .

Accepting that clients are okay with waiting and are ready as time allows.

Accepting that our spare bedroom is no longer a place for motorcycle garb, camp gear, or seasonal clothes but rather a toddler’s hang out filled with flashlights, books, and forts designed for laughter, play and sleep.

Accepting that the bathtub is no longer a private sanctuary filled with candles, soaps, and oils, but more of a hang out for rubber ducks, squirt guns, alphabet letters, and toy boats.

Accepting that the toothbrush holder does not have to have a designated spot and that it is okay to share brushes because after all, the baby teeth are at least getting brushed.

Accepting that morning meditation includes a second set of hands and little feet with lots of hugs and kisses in between.

Yes,

I am accepting our imperfectly-perfect new arrangement, filled with lots of sticky twists and gooey turns.


ete

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