Teach Us to Number Our Days

Teach us to number our days, Moses writes.

Those words echo in my heart as I’ve been so overwhelmed by this mix of emotions that motherhood brings. There are days when it is so hard that I have to give myself a pep talk just to get out of bed, let alone smile as I walk out of my bedroom door to face the day. There are nights when I go to bed so completely mentally and emotionally drained that I can’t articulate a thought before I am asleep. There are moments throughout the day when I’m having to discipline a behavior – the same behavior that I thought we had just corrected five minutes ago – when I just wish away the clock.

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Then, then, there are the moments that make me want time to freeze. Ephrem giggling at something that I’ve done, something so ridiculously silly that I would never do in front of my friends. Or watching him accomplish something and seeing the pride light up his little (no longer a toddler) face. This little boy is funny, and sweet, and becoming his own person. How did that happen? Each day I see him more and more as his own person. I see our fingerprints in his personality, for sure, but he is becoming his own version of Ephrem. I can only imagine that continues as he grows. I have these flashbacks of new parenthood with this little toddling boy and I realize that that little toddler is a shadow only found in photos.

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My favorite moment of the day with Ainsley is when she first wakes up. She smiles ear-to-ear as I get her out of the crib. And then I get to hear Ephrem say excitedly, “Ainsley is AWAKE! Ainsley, are you ready to play pat-a-cake with me?” And she smiles even bigger for her brother. I could nestle down and live in that moment forever. She’s giggling. She rolls over and reaches for and can hold onto toys now. And most of all, she loves her silly brother. In just five short months, she has started to emerge with a little personality that was hidden inside of her little newborn self.

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The parenthood equivalent of Moses’ words is the saying, “The days are long but the years are short.”

I can see how quickly time has already gone by with these two little loves of mine. There are exhausting, difficult, did-I-really-lose-my-patience-again moments. In fact, I’ve never experienced exhaustion quite like parenthood. But each of those moments is countered with a beautiful moment where I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

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So, I pray that I learn to number my days so I can present a heart of wisdom. I don’t think that I will always remember not to wish the hard minutes (or hours as it may be some days) away. But I pray that I wish  away fewer moments and embrace those moments because they make the other moments glow even more.

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Dear Ephrem (February 2014)

Hey Sweet Boy –

One thing that I’ve learned as a parent is how quickly the year goes by. I meant to capture all of the things you can do or love around your second birthday, and well, it flew by without me doing it! I’m so sorry, Bubs.

But you’re growing and changing so fast that I have to capture things as they happen. Otherwise, I’ll forget. And someday you’ll ask me what you liked to eat or do as a toddler and I’ll have to scrounge the back of my useless brain to try to remember.

So here’s you at 2.5 years old. You are an incredible kid. You smile almost all the time. You just started to do this fake laugh, which makes you really laugh and that makes mommy laugh with you. You love to be chased and tickled (“Mommy get you?” you say). You sing all the time – mostly Veggie Tales songs, but sometimes other songs. You love shapes – octagons and circles tend to be your favorite (and are the first to disappear from your shape puzzles). You love to pretend that your green oval is Larry the Cucumber and your wrist band is Bob the Tomato. You just started like to Thomas the Tank Engine (which mommy finds boring but endures because you do love it). You like the library, but only tolerate Story Time with Ms. Brenda. You wake up waaaaay too early some days, but you’re usually singing so it’s adorable, even before 6am. You would eat pizza or chicken “nugs” [nuggets] for every meal if we would let you. You love to run and are pretty fast! You give the best hugs and kisses a mommy could ever hope for.

Sweet Boy, you’re the kiddo I never knew I’d be lucky enough to call my son. I love you always.

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PS – Stop growing up so fast! Mommy doesn’t feel like she can keep up!

 

My Wish

Being a mom has been all-consuming in a way that I didn’t anticipate. It overtakes my thoughts, plans, hopes, dreams, prayers, ministry, my understanding of time…beyond my expectations. First, I’m always incredibly early or incredibly late to things now. Still, it’s been beautiful to simplify and slow down to toddler time, which ironically stands still at 2:30am, but speeds by as I see him grow each day. Now that I’m working full-time, I find myself cherishing every moment with him, even those at 2:30am. (Though, I continue to pray that this boy learns to sleep all night at some point!)

It’s funny how our priorities change when God interrupts our plans. As I’ve been considering what our future holds, everything is colored by this little person.

What I’ve learned is that we can plan all we want, but life is a series of paths. And living life means choosing which path we’re going to take from the choices available to us at a particular moment. It’s scary to choose a path like leaving grad school. Or adoption as “Plan A.” But I honestly cannot imagine my life being different from what it is right now. I can’t imagine me without Evan, and now Ephrem. Because sometimes you pick a path that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be.

My heart’s wish is for Ephrem to grow into the man that God created him to be. And I hope that I do everything I possibly can to nurture and empower him to get there. And I pray that he follows his heart in whatever paths life sets before him.

Ephrem, when Mom and Pop danced at my wedding, this is the song that we danced to. We weren’t the “Butterfly Kisses” sort of father-daughter, so we needed a good song for us. To get married to your dad, I made a choice to leave grad school. It’s not a choice that everyone understood, especially Pop, but he supported me no matter what. So Nana suggested this song for us. I hope you know that this is My Wish for you too. I love you, Little Man.

Hope (again)

Thank you to everyone who commented or emailed or messaged me on Facebook to reassure me that 1) How I feel is normal, 2) I will make it, and 3) Eventually Little Man will sleep and my sanity will return. (It might not be for 17 years, but eventually.) In the moment, it’s hard to walk this path when you feel alone. And parenting through attachment, sleepless nights, and normal toddler-hood is nothing if it doesn’t feel isolating. As new parents who had to hit the ground running, I am often baffled by the question, “Is this in the bounds of normal?”

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But the beauty of this journey is that while no one can do the hard stuff for us, we are constantly supported through encouragement by our family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. We are truly enveloped by your love. Thank you for helping me to see that, yep, this is all normal.

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With another turn in our story, I’m not sure I can say that I understand God’s ways in this particular moment, but I hold fast to this truth: God is good. That alone means that He will guide us in His will, which is perfect and good for all those who love Him. Even when it feels like a desert place because of the drought, God is faithful to provide for His children through the season. I might not see the purpose, the plan, or understand the reason, but I know, I know that my God, my Jehovah Nissi, my El Roi, my Jehovah Shalom is for me.

Today, I read a post by a blogger/writer I follow. She posted it last week. I read it when I needed it (today). I hope it encourages you as it did me.

When you know your Father’s loving — what can you fear losing?

He’s as calm as a man walking on water.

He hears us. He loves us. He has us. So whatever happens, He’s good and we’re good.

I look at him — He’s like a man completely resting on water. Isn’t that it? We pray to the Lord knowing His answer is Love.

And God is no genie and we don’t pray to God to pry something from God. We pray to God to be prepared by God for a purpose of God.

We don’t pray to get more from God — we pray to become more in Christ.

We pray because entering His presence is the answer to all our prayers.

Somedays just laying our head in His hands is the way we lay the burdens down.

The scars on His hands were made to be the perfect ditches for our tears....[Continue reading on A Holy Experience]

Empty

So I’ve been MIA for a while. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. I do. I have thoughts on becoming a transracial family and what race now means to me. I have thoughts about mothering. I have many, many thoughts on adoption. But I’m battling with exhaustion. Things are better than when we first came home, for sure. But I still feel like I’m in the trenches.

I am physically exhausted because Ephrem still struggles a lot with sleep. On a good night, we are up 1-2 times with him. On a not-so-good night, it’s every 45-75 minutes. The not-so-good nights are more frequent than the good nights. I wish I knew how to help him sleep better because we are all soooo sleep deprived (us more than him, I think), but for now, our course of action is just to keep doing what we are doing.

But it’s more than being worn out as a new mom.

Here’s my private confession (that I’m making to anyone who reads this, I guess): more than the physical exhaustion, I am spiritually exhausted. I am empty. I am dry. I am emotionally drained and now unsure how to refill.

Motherhood has been the most beautiful, most meaningful ministry I have ever done. Pouring love and speaking life into that almost 13 month old little boy is an amazing, treasured gift. But this ministry is one that takes every ounce of strength, patience, and endurance I have. I sit back in awe of the mothers who are doing motherhood well, and who are able to still minister to others. I knows some of my struggle relates to insecurity as a new mom. I’m constantly asking myself if I’m doing things “right.” Motherhood is a high-pressure role because it feels like everyone is watching, everyone has an opinion, and the cultural expectations are high. (Thank you, Dr. Freud.) Add to that the pressure of attachment. This in itself is exhausting.

So right now I find myself empty. Honestly, some of this is the challenge of finding the dedicate time I need to spend time in God’s word – quite a feat with a little one who wakes up at 5:30am. And naptime fails because it’s the only chance to get everything else done and/or recover from not sleeping the night before. Still, I’m trying to read a brief devotion to get something, but even with that, I feel like I haven’t heard God’s voice speak to my heart in far too long. I am in the desert place.

Until I hear This voice again, I will “cling to His garment.” Psalm 40 will be my prayer:

I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the LORD.

How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with You.

If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.
(Psalm 40:1-5)

Behind the cute photos

If you follow us on Facebook, no doubt your news feed has been inundated with photos of Baby Shows…er, Ephrem. (I guess we can use his name now. :-))

He is adorable, sweet, kind, and curious. Mostly curious about the furry kid in the house and all his accoutrements recently. Today, while I attempted to cook the first home cooked meal without Evan home, Ephrem found the dog’s water dish and spilled it into Pippin’s food dish (while Pip ate..at least Pippin had the foresight to eat as fast as I’ve ever seen him eat. I think he views E as his competition) and later pulled on Pippin’s ear so hard that Pippin yelped. Pippin never yelps.

But beyond the adorable smiles and sweet photos, we are in the trenches. I hesitate to put this out there publicly but here’s the truth. Ephrem is still learning the trust us. This attachment process is probably going to take many, many months. He needs constant reassurance that he is safe and cared for. And it’s a long process.

Until we get there, we are in the trenches.

Most prospective adoptive parents think that adopting an infant means that the child will have less traumatic experiences and everything will be “easier.” Admittedly, I believe I naively held some of these ideas. I wanted the baby stage as a new parent, definitely. I was intimidated by jumping into parenting with an “older” child and any trauma they may have experienced.

But here’s the truth. No matter how old, a child who is being adopted experiences trauma, whether or not we (as parents) talk about it. They have experienced any number of losses – biological parents, caretakers, culture, language, food. And they can’t tell you about how these losses make them feel. If they are scared or insecure. If they fear hunger. (You haven’t heard a hungry child cry until you have heard an orphan-no-more cry for food.) Many times there are emotional reactions that seem extreme. While we know he’s safe and that food is available, he does not always know that. While we know he can sleep peacefully and doesn’t need to be awake, he does not. While we are probably doing everything “all wrong” according to the baby books, we know what we are doing is right for Ephrem in these moments.

These are the trenches we are navigating.

Beyond the photos is where this becomes real. We are learning what it means to parent a child with 11 months of life already lived. We are learning to love a child from a “hard place,” places where I can imagine hunger was much more real than I know. I can only pray that God’s grace is enough for each moment and that each day Ephrem learns to trust us a little more.

Ephrem, we will love you always.  And always means always.

Catching the Z’s

So we are almost one week home. The sleep situation has probably been the most challenging. It was challenging in Africa and, apparently it’s challenging here too. In Africa, Little Man and I had to share a bed. We tried to make a pallet on the floor so he would sleep there (and not kick me in the middle of the night) but he tosses and turns and then sleep crawls. He would wake up to find himself in the middle of the floor and very confused. And crying because he w as confused.

I kept saying, we just need to get him home and then we can work on sleep. Well, he is doing better than Africa. We are down to 1 or 1 1/2 bottles at night compared to at least 3 (and equally as many diaper changes due to all that liquid…). However, sleep in the middle of the night is still tough. He sleeps well for about 5-6 hours and then the waking starts. He’s up around 5:30-6:00, which was his MO in Africa too. He takes a morning nap usually around 9am.

Today he decided to fight on the non-negotiable morning nap. Fight hard. His got an amazingly strong will, which is 1) my mother’s revenge I’m pretty sure, 2) unfortunate because his mother has an equally strong will when not sleep deprived (see point #1), and 3) going to be amazing as he gets older and he needs that strength to do things for God.

During nap time, however, it’s not cool.

We tag teamed nap time and after fussing with me for 15 minutes, Dad came in. (Momma went and stole one of Dad’s choco- banana muffins.) We tried a mini-bottle and Little Man was OUT. Mom was right when she said he needed a nap!

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Here’s the thing I realized. So often I fight God on things. I throw my head back and wail. I cry and cry and cry. All along God knows what’s best for His child. I might think I know best and cry to have my way. But when I give him to the God who is above all, who gives good and perfect gifts, there is peace.

I have a feeling parenting is going to be full of these lessons.