Friday, May 31, 2013

Lessons from the Floss

I never used to floss my teeth. You could call me a dentist's nightmare, or dream depending on how you looked at it.

I would try. I would even buy more floss than I needed just in case the whole flossing thing caught. And maybe for a few days, before or after my dentist appointment, I would be consistent. Until the night would come when I was too tired to floss.

So I wouldn't.

I would give the same "tired" excuse night after night until I didn't think about flossing anymore. At least until another dentist appointment loomed on the horizon.

Then I would try again, for a few days.

New habits are hard to start.

As a conscientious first born, I couldn't let the flossing thing go. So I kept trying. The same way at the same time.

They say insanity is trying the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. My idea of a flossing habit was looking more and more insane.

And then Lent rolled around.

This year for Lent I gave up eating after dinner. One of my strategies for keeping Lent, became brushing my teeth while the kids were getting ready for bed. Somehow, brushing my teeth at 8 pm made flossing an easier thing to add on. It took away my "tired" excuse. It also gave me added motivation to keep my Lenten promise.

Lent has come and gone, and I have managed to stay on the flossing bandwagon. I just needed to change things up. Sometimes an old strategy needs a little tweaking (or a time change) for a new habit to catch on.

I think that could be said of a lot of things, not just learning to floss.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Summer Chores

School is out and summer is officially here. It's day 1, the motivation is high and my "summer sanity strategy" is in full swing.

Part one of my strategy involves chores. I pulled out the post-its this morning and started the lists. It's how we do things. Their lists are portable, sticky, always changing and when we happen to be out of the house for the morning, they are easy to skip. I have tried chore charts in the past, but its hard for me to be consistent. My kids love the variety of a daily, ever-changing list they can check off and I like the flexibility.

The challenge can be figuring out what to put on their lists each day.

We have a few standards:  make bed/pick-up clothes and say memory verse are daily. A few school activities (we rotate between math workbooks, writing, and reading) are always included. And at least one, sometimes two "chores" complete the daily post-it note.

The "chores" part has me racking my brain at times. I have my master list, which helps, but I am always looking for new ideas.

Here are a few things my kids will be doing this summer, I'd love to hear your "chore" ideas in the comments.

Big Kids (ages 7-10)

  • Vacuuming rooms
  • Cleaning bathrooms (I sometimes separate this into just the tub, or sinks and toilets)
  • Dusting
  • Pulling Weeds
  • Sweeping off front/back porches
  • Cleaning windows on the front/back doors
  • Cleaning/sweeping out the van
  • Sweeping out the garage
  • Emptying dishwasher
Little Kids (ages 4-5)
  • Wiping down baseboards
  • Dusting stair rails
  • Picking up 
  • Watering plants
  • Sweeping off front/back porches
  • Vacuuming rooms
  • Dusting
My expectations on the quality of work is lower for the "littles," and often involves "training" but they have to start somewhere and often surprise me at how well they do. 

Post-it note chore lists work for me and at our house indicate summer is here! 

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Gift of Going Second

Another piano recital is officially under her belt. 

She was nervous this time around. One song was played by memory, the other with the book. She was afraid she would make a mistake. 

When it was over, she was all smiles. She may or may not have made a mistake, if she did they were small. She didn't have to go first and by the time her turn rolled around, others had already made small mistakes. 

"I wasn't nervous anymore when I heard others make mistakes," she said. "It made me think if I made a mistake it would be okay."

She was given a gift by those who went before her. In her book Permission to Speak Freely, Anne Jackson calls this the gift of going second

In Mya's case the gift involved the removal of the expectation to be perfect. A weighty load.

I have been given this gift too. A confession from a friend brings the realization that I am not alone in my struggle. It gives me the courage to confess and pass the gift on to others. It removes the expectation of perfection.

It is hard to go first, to be vulnerable and open yourself up to judgment. Sometimes judgment is all you receive. But sometimes, you find that you are not the only one to struggle. Sometimes by going first, you lighten the load of a fellow traveler. And if they follow your example and pass the gift on, beautiful ripples begin to appear one after the other as the gift of going second gets passed from one broken person to another.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ready, set...

Spring is giving way to summer.

Another school season is in the final stage. The excitement of a new season is building.

Summer is almost here!

In the midst of all the "lasts," plans are underway. Preparations for the long, lazy days of summer. The Internet is scoured for sidewalk chalk games and other activities to prolong the inevitable "I'm bored's" that are bound to appear.

Chores planned. Book lists made. Beach towels washed and waiting. Summer sanity strategy in place.

It's almost go time. Ready or not.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The "other" Mother

Mother's Day has come and gone, and with it this year, came a fresh awareness of the "other" mother who has forever become a part of our lives as a result of adoption.

I am, of course referring to our adopted children's birth mom(s).

If I am honest, she is not in the forefront of my mind very often. I don't think about her as much as I maybe should. Or maybe that is a silly thing to think.

I am grateful for her. Without her, I would be missing two amazing blessings. When I do think about her, I pray for her. I sometimes wonder where she is and if she wonders where her child is. I want her to know her child is loved.

But her presence also worries me. I wonder what her impact will be on her child, my child. Will she be put on a pedestal and thought of as a queen? Will her absence be a constant reminder of abandonment and loss? She has an impact, but how will it manifest itself and how do we, the adoptive parents, navigate those waters?

Our daughter has been processing more of her story. Her China mommy is being brought up more. I am thankful she feels comfortable talking about her. We have tried to be intentional in giving her "permission" to discuss her birth mom, but it brings up those questions. If I am completely honest with myself, it can feel a little threatening.

What if she dreams her China mommy into a better momma than me? What if she wishes she was there instead of here? That would hurt.

I try not to linger on the "threat." After all, it is not about me.

Instead, I try to ask questions about how she is feeling. I wonder with her about her china mommy. I pull out her "gotcha day" video to watch again. I do what I can to help her process her past and love her in the here and now.

I don't do it perfectly. I have made so many mistakes, some of them hurtful. This is not an easy process with clear cut dos and don'ts. There is another mother in our lives. Her presence makes things tricky and sometimes I don't know how to handle it.

But this I know, we are mother and daughter. It may be messy, but we are on this journey together; and we will walk it together.

My daughter has two mothers. I am the one who gets to watch her grow. I don't want to forget the one who gave her life.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Inspiration from E.B. White

Because I love this picture and his words...

“All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” 
― E.B. White

“A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people - people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.” 
― E.B. White

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” 
― E.B. White

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” 
― E.B. White

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Love on The Office

I was/am a fan of The Office. Was because I'm really more of a Michael Scott in the office kind of fan. He made the show funny. The last few seasons have been painful and not funny. I was going to stop watching, but then they said this was the last season. And there is still Jim and Pam.

I love Jim and Pam, but even they have been lackluster as of late. They have marriage problems, Jim doesn't prank Dwight anymore, and there is no Michael.

But I kept with the show, much to Kory's dismay. I am loyal like that.

And then they went and totally surprised me. Did you see the "Paper Airplanes" episode?

Confession: The Office has brought me to tears twice (well maybe three times). The most memorable was Michael Scott's final episode. Then there was the episode where Jim and Pam finally start dating. And the third time was the end of the paper airplane episode. It aired on 4/26, but we didn't watch it until this weekend. We are a little behind.

It caught me off guard. I am not going to get into the story line because if you watched it, your with me and if you didn't you have probably stopped reading. But, to hear scripture in the form of 1 Corinthians 13 being read and then in the following episode to have Jim live that scripture out in a major sacrificial way... really cool and crazy as this sounds considering I am talking about The Office, really moving.

I love the way they portrayed the choice to love, because it is not a message you often see coming out of Hollywood. Well done writers.

Two more episodes until the series is officially over. We'll see how tonight goes, but I've got to say I am actually looking forward to it.

Although, I still miss Michael Scott.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

What do you do with Impossible Dreams?

Last summer Mya took tennis lessons and at some point during that time Suhn asked the question, "When I get older can I take tennis lessons too?"

This is a question I am not sure how to answer.

For those of you who don't know, Suhn has cerebral palsy and at this point in time needs a walker to get from place to place. Although she is making HUGE strides and has started walking around our house without her walker, she still has a ways to go before she can get around without it. Honestly, she may always need some kind of "help" to get around (whether that be a walker or crutches or something else). Time will tell.

The realist in me wants to tell her she will probably never be able to play tennis.

But at the same time, what if someday she can?

Do I quench what I think is an impossible dream or do I give what could be a false hope?

It is a question I wrestle with all the time. It is one of the hard things about having a child with a special need.

Last week at Summit 9, I received a burst of inspiration in the form of a 19 year old named George  Dennehy. George was born in Romania with no arms and adopted by a US family at the age of 1. George's mom saw that he had a gift for music and at the age of 8 signed him up for cello lessons.

Did you catch that. He has no arms and his mom signed him up for cello lessons. He learned to play with his feet.

At Summit, George played Amazing Grace for us on the guitar with his feet. I was blown away.

It brought up the question, if I had been George's mom, would I have signed my son with no arms up for cello lessons? I don't think I would have. It would have fallen into the "impossible dream" category for me. I would have encouraged him to pursue something a little more possible and I would have robbed the world of a huge blessing.

I'm sure there is still a place for the realist in me as we navigate these waters with our daughter, BUT after hearing George's story I want to be slow to say she can't.  Because, with a lot of hard work, maybe she can.

Or maybe she will start to put in the work and realize that dream, whatever it may be, is not something she wants to pursue. It will be her decision to stop.

Realistic or not, I don't want to be a dream killer. I want to be like George's mom and be willing to sign my kids up for cello lessons, even if it appears to be an impossible feat.

After all, we serve a God who delights in making impossible dreams come true and I don't want to get in the way of that.

Monday, May 06, 2013

I Won. You Can Too!

When I attend conferences, one of my favorite things to do is visit every booth in the exhibit hall and learn about all the organizations that are represented.

 Yeah, not really.

But, two years ago my sister won an iPad as the result of a little contest one of my favorite conferences, Orphan Summit put on. They provided a list of all the exhibitors and told us that if you could convince 20 exhibitors to initial your list, you could win something.

I wasn't planning on attempting this great and noble feat, but I had a 4 year old who was tired of sitting in workshops and a sister who thought she would win. Her dream was contagious.

The end result: I found myself wandering up and down the exhibit hall aisles. Aisles filled with booths from really great organizations doing amazing things all over the world to help orphans. As we walked we subtlety tried to catch exhibitors eyes and coerce them to sign our paper.

Besides learning that every single person in the orphan care community has some link to Zambia, I managed to obtain 20 sets of initials. And thus, found myself entered in a contest to win a prize.

Low and behold, they called my name. I did not win the iPad, but I did win a children's book entitled Walter's Flying Bus by Ed Strauss and Josiah Thiesen.

Walter's Flying Bus is a special book. It is the story of a boy in Uganda and his friends. They each have a dream and a special gift that turns an abandoned bus into a vehicle that delivers each one to their forever families.

Even better, this book is available as an interactive e-book that you can buy as an iPhone/iPad app for only $.99 (for a limited time).

It is amazing. Seriously, I LOVE the app and so do my kids. It is a prime example of how art can be used to inspire and change lives; and it is a great way to expose and inspire your own kids. A way to plant a seed in their hearts to care for and love on the orphaned.

To top it all off, 100% of the after-tax profits from the app sales go towards efforts helping special needs orphans around the world.

So while I may have "won" at Summit 9 this year, you can win too. And help orphans at the same time. And if you share this with your friends, they can win too!

It's a win-win-win-win-win. :)