It's my life and I love it...most of the time.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Talents of a Parent: Things I Have Learned Part III

I want to take a little different turn with today's blog. Still along the line of parent talents, but in a different venue than we have been covering. There are several things I enjoy doing, but perhaps none more than photography. I have taken pictures for a long time, since I was in elementary school. To say the least, my ability has evolved over the years. I have always taken pictures of people and activities going on around me. I have scrapbooked them since I was in high school. It is very important to me to capture the memories that are happening around me, not only for myself, but for my children. I cherish that I am creating a written and pictoral history for the generations to come after me. My grandchildren will be able to see so many of the things their parents experienced growing up.

More recently, I have also taken a bigger interest in capturing God's beauty that surrounds me. I find his beauty on vacations to some of the most incredible places on earth, and I find it in my own front yard. His beauty surrounds us everywhere.

We all have things we enjoy doing. It is important as a parent that we not let those interests die when we become parents. Don't get me wrong. It is important for us to help foster our children as they discover their own interests, but not at the expense of our own. It is very healthy for us to teach our children that following our interests is important. It is important to the health and happiness of the family unit. It is good to take a break sometimes, and there should be no guilt felt if we need it. It is not only healthy for us as a parent, but it is healthy for our children as well. It is equally as healty for our children to learn to do things without us sometimes.

I don't always get to do some of the things I like to do when I would like to do them. But I do take advantage when I get the chance. My family has even been know to humor me and participate in some of the things I enjoy doing. I would like to share some of my favorite photographs with you. Let me know what you think. I would love to hear about what you are passionate about! What are some of those little things that you crave to get away and do?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Talents of a Parent: Things I Have Learned Part II

I would dare say every new parent faces fear. It does not matter if the new child comes home the first day as an infant or 3, 4, 5, or 6 as our children came to us. I wish I could say the fear goes away, but as our children grow up we just encounter new fears. As a mother of 4 teenagers (at one point I had five at one time), I can say the fears just change. Gone are the days when I worried about them riding their bike to the swimming pool on a hot summer day. Now I find myself worrying as they head out in one of the many cars that now line our drive. I would dare say from many conversations with parents who have children older than mine, that the fears never go away-they just change.

There comes a day when we have to know that we have done our best to teach our children what good choices are and how to make them. Then we have to let them go; go out that door to the swimming pool by themselves, go out that door and into a car full of friends. And then we should prepare for the days they will not make good choices. It is good to have a plan for these moments. There may be nothing more volatile than facing a teenager that has made a mistake in anger. I do not mean you can be so prepared that you won't feel anger, but you can be prepared with how to address them when it happens. This is not to say that I was always prepared --how else do you think I know it would be a good plan to prepare!

Not everything can be prepared for, however. Along this vain, perhaps the most important thing I have learned as a parent is to follow my instincts. Listening to my instincts has been honed over many years now. I can gratefully say it didn't take too many times of not listening before I caught on. It is not an exact science. I have learned to listen to myself, question what I am hearing, and respond accordingly. Sometimes it is as simple as being at the grocery store and having an ingredient pop into my head that isn't on my list. There have been times I have ignored my instincts, knowing I have it in the fridge, only to get home and not have it. I have also faced moments when I have felt something wasn't quite right in situations with my children. I never question these times, and I have never regretted a choice I have made by following my instincts.

I just started reading Louder Than Words by Jenny McCarthy last night and had to come back and add this paragraph to this weeks blog. She talks continually about her instincts and her gift to follow them. As she encountered a life changing illness with her son, she kept coming up against doctors who were giving her answers she did not feel were right. She followed those instincts, questioned, and kept searching until she found someone who knew what was really wrong with her child. (He was diagnosed with autism for those of you who don't know.) While I don't advocate the language she uses in her book (i.e. throwing the "F" bomb around), it is a good read. She is 100% upfront with exactly what she was filling during this time in her life. It really brings home the importance of following our instincts.

I believe this is a gift from God and am very glad that God has provided this gift to women. It has been my experience that men do not have this same ability. I am very grateful that my husband has also come to recognize that some times I just know things. There may not be facts to back up what I am feeling, but I am confident in what my instincts are telling me.

Do you listen to your instincts? If you are a new mother, and are just beginning to see what I am talking about, I encourage you to really take the time to listen to yourself and trust your instincts.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Talents of a Parent: Things I Have Learned Part I

There are many talents that God provides us with as parents. Are we perfect - umm no! But if you are like me, you try your best. While I come by some things naturally, I have never been afraid to try new things along the way. At times this has been interesting, to say the least, especially when cooking!

One gift I have is being able to organize. This should not be confused with having a perfect, orderly house (just ask my mom, better yet; don't!). Being organized can help life run smoother. The biggest thing I have always tried to do is plan meals. When it was just my husband and I, I would prepare a months worth of menus at once and do the majority of the grocery shopping in one trip. Of course I had to go back for milk and fresh produce. By the time we had five children, I had switched to weekly menus and stopping for milk during the week again. When I have a menu posted on the refrigerator, it makes it easy to pull out the meat I need and prepare the evening meal. I do not have to spend precious time determining what to fix tonight.

As my family has grown, I am now trying to pass this skill on to my children. The hardest part of this task is being respectful that there is more then one way to do things, and this is no exception. Especially when it comes to cooking the actual meal. That is not to say that some things can be compromised, such as the need for a vegetable with every meal.

This past spring I began transitioning my children that still live at home to the responsibility of planning the meals, doing the grocery shopping, and preparing the meal. They are 15, 17, 18, and 19. They all participate equally. While activities do interfere occasionally, we are flexible and Monday nights meal may have to be moved to Thursday. And I take care of one meal a week. My husband has even began chipping in some.

We have had some growing pains, but there has been definite progression. The first week, I planned the menu and the grocery list. They did the shopping. Side note: This is beneficial in more then one way. We have saved money. They don't stray from the list. I definitely do.

I built up to them planning the menu as well. Not realizing I needed to give some more guidance on this we had an interesting week. Nachos one night - not even ground beef, just chips and cheese. That was it. You get the idea. I turned this into a teachable moment, and we had a lesson on what should be included in a meal, such as vegetables.

By the end of school, they were doing quite well. With summer, I have taken over more of the planning and cooking. But I will soon be returning to work, and we will jump right back in. This is especially helpful on Monday nights when I have class.

The best part of this process has been watching the kids discover how good they are at this. Kenny makes a fantastic homemade pizza. Ashley makes incredible potatoes. Jessica whips up some mean eggs. And Cameron makes the best, melt-in-your mouth chocolate chip cookies I have ever had. What talented children I have!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Sorry I haven't posted for awhile. We went to visit my parents out of state and lets just say their dial up is not conducive to surfing the web, especially when you are used to speeds much faster! We had a nice visit, which included my aunt coming along for the ride.

Annual trips that include my aunt have become a tradition for my family. It began about four years ago when I decided to take my youngest daughter to visit her biological grandparents on the East coast. My husband didn't show a lot of interest, so I asked my aunt if she would come along-I needed the support. We had a wonderful time, extending our trip to include our nations capital, the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania as well as the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. She has now accompanied us to Minnesota on three adventures to see my parents. This year we let my husband tag along, too! I don't think I can properly express how important this tradition has become to us. One of my cousins has asked to join us on one of our trips. We have so much fun, I can't wait to include her!! These memories will be with us forever, in our hearts and in the scrapbooks I have put together of these adventures.

We have many traditions in our family, most of them are common I would say to many households. The majority of them revolve around holidays. We do not limit ourselves to the ones that have been around since we were children, but we grow new ones. As an extended family, we did not enjoy each others company on Memorial Day or the 4th of July. About four years ago we invited ourselves to my brother-in-laws house for the fourth. Soon we had invited my sister-in-law and her family as well as my parents-in-law. It was very spur of the moment. Thankfully, I have an easy going sister-in-law who went along with it all. It has become a tradition, and every year we know where we will be - with friends and family enjoying time together!

As an adoptive parent, I can tell you how important these times are for my children. Our oldest son, especially, needs these moments. They are something he can hold on to as he struggles to find his way as a young adult. He is currently living with his biological dad, uncle, and grandma. He has spent the last year and a half getting to know them, as well as his mother's family. It has been a learning experience, to say the least. He struggles with balancing it all. He wants to have a relationship with them, but needs the traditions of our family to hold everything together.

It is not always the easiest, for me especially. I have to confess, my husband is much better at this new juncture in our lives. I guess this evens out with his abilities vs mine when the children were young. I have come to the conclusion this is another reason whey God made men and women so different. He knew our children would need us in different aspects as they grew. I am so thankful that I have a husband to help me along this path. I can't imagine doing it alone as some of my friends have.

Traditions are so important to our lives, whether it be a holiday or the same picture taken during every visit to Grandma's. As our children grow up, I hope to add more traditions. A friend of ours has Thursday night dinner once a week - I hope to do something similar. We also plan to continue a tradition my parents started; they always had Christmas Eve at their house. This enabled everyone to spend Christmas Day any way they needed. What are some of your family traditions?

Don't forget, if you like my blog, become a follower!

Friday, July 2, 2010


I have had a hard time this week deciding what to blog. I had a specific topic in mind, but just could not quite get it put together. Then the idea of transitions in life came to mind. Specifically, all of the transitions that happen as we become parents.

For a typical parent, there is a lot of time to transition and prepare for a new baby. It continues on until the day we die. We transition from the baby to stage, to toddler, pre-school, school age, pre-teen, etc. For an adoptive parent, the stages are the same except we do not have the privilege of preparing for a new baby in the same way. We do not carry the child for 9 months, creating an immediate bond with the child. We may not be there for the birth, and those precious few moments after they arrive. We may not even have the joy of watching them grow during those all important infant and toddler years, as we did not.

There are many reasons why I miss, even grieve, some of those moments. I did not get to relish in the first movement felt, or be able to feel my husband's hand on my tummy as he feels his child move. I was not there for those critical developmental years, and was unable to protect them from terrible situations. I worry it is because of these missed years, that I may not have as close of a relationship with my children as those who are birth families. I do not want to short change these precious children.

I have no way of knowing if we had been able to have biological children, what they would have been like. There is really no reason to even speculate. But I often wonder. It would not have made any difference if we had had biological children. We did not decide to have our own children until after we had started the process to adopt our first 3 children. Our family dynamic would have been the only thing different. And we would have had a reference between what is a "normal" issue and what is an "adoptive" issue. Now that may have come in handy!

Our parenting transitions moved quickly. We went from fostering 2 boys, starting the adoption process for those 2 children as well as their sister; bringing another foster daughter into our home, bringing another son home with the hope of adopting him, and then deciding to adopt our second foster daughter as well, all in a matter of 3 years. It was almost like having quintuplets, only they weren't the same age and we didn't get a multi-million dollar tv deal out of it!

I am so glad that I was able to be a stay-at-home mom and enjoy the PTA moments, swimming at the pool every day in the summer, and volunteering in their class rooms. But as they grew older it was time to transition again. All of a sudden they were all in middle and high school, and before I knew it they were all teenagers at the same time! Five teenagers in one household ensures a house full of rough housing, laughter, and hormones! Throw into that mix teenagers dealing with adoption issues such as abandonment and biological families - whew; there have been moments I did not know if I would survive!

I must confess, in some ways I am not as good of a parent to teenagers as with younger children. I think that is why God made the plan to include two parents. Parents are to work together and compliment each other. My husband was not as good with the children when they were young, as he is now that they are teenagers and 21. We balance each other. I have a completely new respect for single parents now that I have been doing it with a partner!

And now our transition has brought us to being the parent of a young adult - 21. He was the oldest child, coming into our home at the age of 6. He has struggled the most so far with his transitions. That is not to say none of the others have struggled. I feel compasion for him as he tries to sort out getting to know biological family. It has been hard, and will continue to be hard until he is able to understand he will never get the answers he wants to hear. We wish we could take this painful time away from him, but we can't. We can be assured that God is there with him, as we pray for him constantly.

Friedrich Nietzsche, a 19th century philosopher, coined the phrase "what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger." How true this is. I made many choices growing up, many of them bad, but those choices have made me into the person I am today. I remind myself of this as I see my children transition to teenagers and young adults. I am anxious to see the adults they become.