I used to think self-care was a total fantasy. I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which I would have the time, money, or energy to make myself a priority. How could I ever make it to the list, when I couldn’t even accomplish what was already on that list?
After several years at a breakneck pace, including a chronic neglect of my health (did I mention I have a serious autoimmune condition that is exacerbated by stress?), and emotional needs, I was headed toward burnout at 100 mph.
I’m not good at saying yes to my kids. In fact, if I’m honest, “no” is my default.
I think it comes from being overwhelmed, exhausted, and depleted—from wanting a moment’s peace without someone needing me, asking me to do something, or making my life more difficult.
It began when my three year old walked up to an unassuming mother on the playground and kicked her hard in the thigh for no apparent reason.
She was merely helping her 15 month old baby pet our dog. I was shocked, horrified, and humiliated. Why would he do that? What kind of mother raises a child who kicks unsuspecting adults? What a big, fat, mothering failure I was. Forget manners, I hadn’t even managed to avoid barbarism in public. I wanted to dissolve into the playground mulch.
This October marked two years home with our youngest boys, adopted from Uganda in 2011. The first year was pure survival. We spend most of our days just trying to make it, adjusting to our new normal. This year was different.
Over the last twelve months, my husband Joel and I realized we needed to learn how to parent differently if our family was going to do more than simply survive. Our trusted, traditional parenting model simply didn’t work. We a needed fresh approach.
We began reading about parenting children from “hard places”—children like ours who have endured significant early trauma, and don’t respond to traditional, consequence-based methods. Thanks to the work of Dr. Karyn Purvis, and her Trust-Based Relational (TBRI) model of parenting, we were able to view our children with new, more compassionate eyes. We began to see progress, and finally felt like we had found an approach that made sense.
In August, we brought in TBRI trained, adoption parenting coach, Debra Delulio Jones. She spent four days in our home for a Suppernanny-style intensive. She helped us further understand the sensory/neurobiological impairment we were dealing with, gave us powerful insights into the behavioral problems we were experiencing, and provided customized strategies to guide us in helping our children heal.
The understanding we gained from Dr. Purvis’ work, along with the practical instruction Debbie provided this summer, have given us a roadmap that we rely on everyday.
Here are four of the biggest ones we learned as a result.
It’s the home stretch of a long Christmas break. Just a few more days until routine, structure, and SANITY return.
If you find yourself like I do tonight—exhausted, overwhelmed, and not sure you are up for the challenges of the life you’ve been given—take heart.
When I feel like I want to throw in the towel, when my compassion and patience wear thin, when the weight of the future and all it’s uncertainty hang heavy, I remember that I’m not supposed to do it all in my own strength.
Heroes need not apply. (Whew!)
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” —2 Corinthians 12:9
Hang in there, Mamas. I think we’re gonna make it after all.
I hate Christmas break. There, I said it. Feel free to judge me if you want, or, exhale a sigh of relief that someone other than you finally said it out loud.
Back when the kids were still in school, I remember the moms on Facebook, counting down the days until they were out, excited for slow mornings spent lazing around in pajamas, watching Christmas movies until 11 am. Their days filled with baking, and holiday Pinterest crafts, and leisurely visits to see friends and relatives. They wrote about their plans for special outings, and late bedtimes, and an ever-flowing river of treats, and new toys.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and what you don’t see on Facebook are the posts about the meltdowns that followed many of those events, after the Instagram posts were made, and the Facebook likes began pouring in. Don’t ask me how I know this.
Though many of us look forward to the promise of a little relaxation, without the seeming tyranny of our regular school routine, all to often we reluctantly admit just a few days in that it isn’t quite what we hoped for. Especially, if we have children with special needs.
As a mom of four children, all with backgrounds of trauma and challenges too numerous to count, a lack of structure is a little like taking off the psychological girdle. Our unsightly bits start spilling over the edges and it isn’t pretty for anyone.
After an emergency departure in August, I returned from Uganda with our two new sons, Moses and Jonah nine weeks and countless miracles and trials later. We’ve been home for three months and this is the first blog post I’ve written.
Until now, I had no idea what to say. I have been up to my eyeballs, nearly drowning is the demands of two new children (the laundry, oh, the laundry!), attachment and adjustment issues, and the relentless exhaustion that comes with a lack of sleep and a life change this big.
It has been an extremely difficult journey — much harder than I expected. And, it has also miraculous beyond words. It has required more of me than I could have prepared for. I am certain it is God’s mercy and grace that have sustained us.
First, let me apologize for disappearing from blogland without explanation. When I found out four weeks ago that Baby Jonah had been in the hospital for several days with a fever so high he was convulsing, I knew I had to leave for Uganda immediately. In less than 24 hours, I boarded a plane in Atlanta and stepped on Ugandan soil two days later. The whirlwind before and after was epic, and that is no exaggeration.
Thankfully, Jonah has made a complete and miraculous recovery. For the first 7-10 days he didn’t smile, stand, walk or do much of anything except cry and beg to be held—all the time. It was heartbreaking and exhausting. He was so sick. It’s incredible to see him now, smiling all the time and walking everywhere. He is not the same child I met four weeks ago.
Moses came to stay with me only a day after I got here. It was a surprise to us both, since I expected we would get t know one another over several days before he came to be with me full-time. I think it was overwhelming for both of us.
Where has the time gone? I have been so consumed with getting ready to leave for Uganda that I haven’t had time or energy to blog. I feel like I am eight months pregnant and the clock is ticking toward the moment when everything changes. I alternate between being excited and overwhelmed, a flurry of activity and flattened by exhaustion.
I can’t believe it. We leave in 27 days. Mommy and Daddy are coming, boys! We are coming.
Fundraising Goal Reached
Earlier this week, we hit an incredible milestone—we reached our fundraising goal of $30,000. It’s utterly humbling to experience God’s faithfulness in such a dramatic way. As I have said over and over, money need not be an obstacle for a family called to adoption. HE will provide.
Our final donation came from author Karen Kingsbury’s One Chance Foundation. As an adoptive mom herself, Karen is passionate about adoption, and delights in helping families bring their children home through her foundation. We could never say thank-you enough to Karen and her precious team for choosing to bless us with this gift. You are truly our angels.