Sunday, December 25, 2011

For Unto Us...

I have spent a lot of time thinking about Mary this holiday season. I think anyone who is pregnant at Christmas can't help but think of her. When I stop to consider that she was the age of my students and faced with a huge wall of rejection and shame, at a time when she was most vulnerable, she becomes more human to me. Mary has never been someone who stood out to me. She seemed meek, but she asked to do one of the most difficult things anyone has ever been asked to do. As a young Hebrew woman, she risked everything to be the mother of Christ. In a society where she had few resources, faced certain isolation and rejection, she took a step forward in faith and agreed to be a part of a miracle that we still don't understand today.

I wish I knew where Mary stumbled. What did she obsess over? Did she cry over her potential loss of Joseph? Did she worry if it all would work out? When she felt a strange pain or discomfort, did she wonder if her baby would be safe and delivered healthy? This was a time when almost 50% of women died while giving birth. Did she wonder if she would live to see her child? Were their moments when she regretted her faith? I think she must of struggled, she was human, but despite her struggles she kept moving forward.

When I think of Mary, I think of Sara. There is a stark difference between Sara and Mary. God blessed Sara and Abraham with Isaac, despite Sara's lack of faith. He blessed the world because of Mary's abundance of faith.  I am more of a Sara than a Mary. I was recently involved in an conversation with someone who reads my blog and they commented on how by giving up my desire, I was given my desire. I don't think it is as simple as that.

Over a period of years, I was forced to break down and give up little pieces of myself to God. I am still doing it. I clutch to my job and my marriage unwilling to let go and let God. My journey through infertility was my way back to God who never left me. He was always powerful and always miraculous, but I wasn't always willing to see that. Like Sara I put God in a box. He wouldn't love me, He couldn't forgive me, and I was on my own. My first step in letting go of my box led to other steps and slowly I saw that God was much bigger than my simple definition.

However, even while I grew I kept the box open. When the doctors felt like pregnancy wasn't an option and we had gone as far as we agreed to go in fertility treatments, I decided that pregnancy was impossible for me. In my prayers, I would ask God for his plan, but I was still pushing my plan. There were several times before Ashley came that I felt something was wrong, but I pushed the feeling away and pushed forward. When she came, there were moments that clear signs that God's plan was not for her to be part of our family, but I glossed over them and pushed forward. Honestly, if I wasn't pregnant, I am not sure that would have stopped pushing to make it work. Even when we first found out, I was still trying to work it out. At no point in the time that Ashley was here did I ask God for his plan.

I would pray, but I would avoid the "thy will be done" part. In my heart of hearts, I knew what God's will was and I didn't want to hear it. I put God in a box. This box said that only we could love Ashley and that God wasn't big enough to keep her safe, heal her, and provide us with a family. It seems sad and stupid now, but I held onto that box with all my heart. I was still holding onto pieces of it until a few days ago.

One summer, I was attending a chapel service at JH Ranch. The camp had chapel in a big tent that had a view of the Siskiyous. Sitting in a small prayer group, I had a moment where I looked up and saw that mountains covered in thousands of lightening strikes. It was a powerful, visceral and stunning picture of a God who can't be put in a box. For the first time, I realized that God was bigger than I thought. That was my last summer camp and it would take 16 years for me to think about that night again, but the memory was as powerful as the experience. I am loved by a great, wonderful, fearful, and awesome God. Not only has he planned the life growing in me, but he controls the very elements that surround me. Who am I to box that up?

Mary may have had a box, but she fought past it. Sara's box was ripped apart. Mine is slowly is being torn apart. I stumble and get stuck. I have millions of foibles and anxieties and yet each day I am being pushed to change. Each day I am pushed forward in faith, and each day I try not to resist.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Well, now, I am not sure what to say...

I have woefully ignored my blog the past few months. All I can say is that this Fall has been intense. I feel as if I just got off a crazy rollercoaster and can finally sleep. On the plus side, finally having time to slow down has given us a chance to revel in some baby joy. A friend recently asked me what pregnancy felt like, I told her I felt gassy. Not the most poetic of answers, but honest and true.

It also feels a bit as if I don't control my body and everyday is a little adventure. Oh, I never liked spicy food before, those pants don't fit, dark chocolate is suddenly gross,  I woke up with a new body shape, why am I crying at this picture of my neice and on and on. It is pretty wonderful and scary and thrilling all in one.

I have noticed that people will say anything to you once they know you are pregnant. "I miscarried three times before I had my child". "My labor involved me ripping open". "All your baby needs is your breast and your love". The last statement was uttered by a woman patting me down at PDX. She used the time that she was feeling me up for bombs, to explain the glory of her home birthing expirences and to challenge me not to "genderfy" my child. This is why Oregon is awesome people, you can't get that kind of airport security conversation just anywhere.

I am amazed at how freely people share their opinions about childbirth (home or hospital) drugs (evil or wonderful) finding out the gender (destroying nature or practical) and life post baby (a term spent in hell or a glorious awakening of womanhood).  I just wouldn't tell another person what to do with their body and their child. It isn't any of my business.

People I barely know have asked me about what type of birth I am going to have. I don't really want to discuss my birthing expierence with everyone. That seems private. The other day, a woman explained to me that if I didn't stay  home, my child would resent me for life. This seemed appalling. My Mom didn't stay home, my sisters and I are fine. Another person told me not to lose my career in being a Mom as "so many woman your age seem to"

Really? Wasn't the point of fighting for woman to have choices about just that? Choices! Whether or not someone stays home or goes to work seems to be a highly personal choice that each couple must consider. If my husband stays home and I work, or if we both work, or if I stay home. It is all up to us, and I am thankful to have so many options.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy to have people excited for me and interested in our lives, but sometimes that interest can cross a line. Is it because we live in such an open age? Or because people aren't taught basic manners? The expierence is teaching me to think before speaking and ask if it really is any of my business?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

No day but today

Do you ever feel as if you got it all together and planned out and then suddenly you are reminded that you don't control anything and it may not be worth planning? This would describe the fall for me. I keep thinking that I have it under control, that I know where I am going with work, life, home, etc and then boom, there is change. Tonight at church, I realized that a major lesson is being pounded into my stubborn head. God keeps saying, "let go and let me be in control" and I keep clutching at straws.

I am not implying that making plans is bad. To the contrary, it is the responsible thing to do. However, I tend to want to carve my plans into stone and that is not good. Being open to what God can bless you with is an amazing place to be. Me being pregnant is  a total and complete miracle. It throws all of my plans out of whack, it threw the plans I thought I had out whack, and yet I have never been so happy about having so little control.

At the moment, it often feels as if I don't even control my body. It is as if my very being has ceded control to this growing miracle. I like food I never liked before, I cry at things I never cried at, I want to sleep more, and on Wednesday I woke up with a totally different body shape. However, all of it feels like an amazing adventure. I will happy cede control if the end result is a healthy and happy baby.

This past week I was in Fresno for a training. I was the only classroom teacher in the room. Everyone else was curriculum director for their state, in charge of literacy for their large urban district,  and overall much more qualified, experienced and generally older than I am. It was beyond intimidating. I felt overwhelmed and out place. I had no idea why my district would send me or how I could possibly make it work, but I did. In fact, I held my own,  I had to work harder than I have since Dr. Sil's Philosophy of History class, but I held my own and received a certification. I also found a new mentor in the trainer, a woman who is at the top of curriculum and instruction field in the country. I left Fresno feeling like I have more options in my career than I ever thought possible.

I can rigidly grasp at my plan, but the past few months have shown me that I really should focus on today. I can think I know what is going to happen, but I need to remind myself that God's plan will always super cede mine. The past few months have been some of the most emotionally trying of my life, and yet my marriage is stronger, my faith is deeper, and our baby is on it's way. I am living proof of the power of Jeremiah 29:11. I am being prospered in spite of myself, not because of myself,  and I so thankful for the powerful love that has honored me with such undeserved blessing.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A moment

It isn't very often that I stop to think about how much good is happening in my life, and I am thankful that yesterday was a moment to stop and remind myself that there is a lot of good going on. Yesterday, my Mom was thankful that all of her children, and grandchildren, had jobs. In a way this is almost a sad thing to thankful for, but it is a true reflection of the times. Justin and I both have good jobs that have good benefits and some security.  The sheer fact that I get to teach is a plus. There are folks who went through my program that didn't ever find that teaching job, and they were better teachers than I am. In this current economy, I have encountered so many people who are literally hanging on by a thread, and yet politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to bicker over idiotic details in order to pander to their extreme right or left wing pundits.

The current economic climate has led to a political climate that I find exhausting, poisonous, and disturbing. As someone who makes a living teaching 14 year olds about how our government works and what it means to be a citizen, I am often embarrassed by what the adults demonstrate as citizenship to them. Have we really become a country that is unable to enter into a respectful political debate that is based on fact on mannerly discourse? Are we really to going to villanize those who vote the opposite of us? Or determine that because someone has a different belief system from ours that they are uneducated or too educated?

In light of the holiday season, can we just take a moment and recognize that we are all people who are deserving of common courtesy and respect? Can we refuse support those who thrive on creating a negative debate based on half truths and character slanders? Can we enter into honest discussions about issues that effect us all? May I suggest that each person who is planning on voting, take a minute and read the Constitution?

Understanding the powers of each branch, the five purposes of government, and what the Constitution actually says is key to being an informed citizen. It makes spotting propaganda much easier. Speaking of propaganda, can we turn off the major news sources? Can we refuse to listen to those who make a living by sensationalizing mundane facts? With the spirit of the holiday season, which is sure to be followed by an obnoxious and overbearing Presidential race, find someone who you know has the opposite political beliefs as you do and offer to listen. Really listen, ask them to really listen to you. Look for what you have in common. You both want the regular guy to be supported, you are both concerned about the power of corporations, maybe you have different solutions, but you aren't that different.

I am not asking for a dyed in the wool dem to become a tea party member or vice versa, but I am asking for us to collectively refuse to buy into this idea that because we vote differently we must be enemies. I want my students, and my future child, to grow up in country where we elect officials because we truly understand what they stand for and who they are. I want those who are fear mongers and hate spreaders to suddenly become unpopular. I want common citizens to have honest discussions about what their communities need and hold their reps responsible for it. When we are busy yelling at one another, it becomes so much easier for them to not serve the people. Please, let's reclaim our country by reclaiming our sanity.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wrestling with the demon

Being a control freak,  I am obsessive about failure. How have I failed? How am I going to fail? What may make me fail? This is a big side effect of struggling with an anxiety disorder. In the past few years, I have improved at my failure freakouts. I have learned to calm down and let go, and not attach life or death stakes to each and every decision. The past few weeks I have backslid in my progress. A combination of hormones, extreme emotions, and an unusual situation have led me to question a lot.

I have been angry about the Ashley situation and felt as if God was toying with me.  It took me years to get to a place where I was peacful about not being able to have a baby and felt right about adoption. It felt as if just when I reached that point, I got pregnant. I am in no way unhappy about being pregnant, but I have struggled with the timing, and the consequences. I have spent the past week wrestling with a sense of anger, fear of failure, and anxiety over making all the wrong choices.

Today I came to place where I could let Ashley go. I just sort of laid it all out there. My anger, and fear and sense of betrayal. How I worried about her and hope beyond hope that her time with us was for the positive and not the negative. Next I laid out my fears about pregnancy and motherhood and messing up. Finally, I came home and discussed all of this with my husband.

He reminded me that we are going to be ok and that I have a tendency to freak out about things we are ok with. Since the moment I found out I was pregnant, I have been overwhelmed with worry about how we would find a place to live, where we should live, how I didn't want to move while pregnant, how no place would be as cozy as my condo. How I want one more summer to put the baby in the stroller and walk downtown, but I felt like the "grownup" thing to do was to run out and find a new place to live.  After a long chat with Justin, we have decided to stay in our condo and I am so happy about it. I love it here and I just wasn't ready to take on moving on top of everything else.

Justin also reminded  me that I had told him I would leave the decision to move up to him. I came to this decision, because I can let anxiety build up until I push both of us to do things that maybe aren't the most prudent financial moves. Living here longer is better for us financially and we both like it, so why am I freaking out?

I think when Ashley left, I was desperate to make a new start. To cleanse all of the emotion and stress away by moving out of it. (somewhere my sisters are shaking their heads) Creating more stress, doesn't help cleanse old stress. Since some quality prayer time, a long chat with Justin, and deciding to stay home. I just feel better.

Now I can focus on the holidays!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


It is hard to explain all the things that I have been thinking or feeling the past few days. The best word I can come up is "peace".  I have a great peace about the fact that DHS chose to move Ashley to a home that fit her family wish list. We knew that she would be moved, but we did expect a bit more than twenty-four hours notice. When our caseworker first called to say that she would be moved the next day, my first instinct was to say "no, let's wait. It is too much, too fast.", but just as fast as I thought that another voice told me to trust. I got off the phone, we broke the news to Ashley, who was actually excited, and both of us felt better. Thursday was stressful, I had to take the day off and get her packed, and she had obvious anxiety at the fact that she was moving. The day went by in a blur and somehow we were standing in parking garage, waving goodbye. It still feels weird that she isn't here. It is like we are missing something, but it feels peaceful.

This entire process has made me realize that not only do I not control what is going to happen, and has shown me the amazing support system that we have somehow stumbled into. The entire staff at Lyle was amazing to Ashley in her whole tenure their. Their friendly open support helped her to become more successful at school than she had ever been before. Thanks to Trenda, she finally liked PE. Terri Dodge was the "the first teacher who liked me", Terri Hethorn made her feel "cool to be Mexican" and she loved that Darcy Naughton would say hello to her whenever she went into the office. I can say that all these ladies and so many more, made it so easy to figure out how to a "mom" at school instead of a teacher. When I went to withdraw her, there was genuine sadness and gentle assurance. At the height of my stress, I had to call and leave a message for Ashley, Darcy was so calm on the phone that I instantly became calm too. What an amazing staff Lyle has.

Justin and I are both fortunate to work in buildings with very supportive staffs. There is something amazing about going to work with people who are genuinely interested in you as person and willing to pitch in and help you when you need it. Jared has carried me for the past month, not only do I owe him cookies, but I am very thankful to have a teaching partner who is caring and understanding.

We have amazing friends. I can't even list all the ways our friends have reached out to support us.All I can say is that we don't deserve to be blessed with so many people who are willing to listen, support, celebrate and cry with us.

Our families took this journey with us. There is no way to describe what they did for us or how they stepped up and helped us make decisions, pray for us, listen to us and generally just be there for us.
It will take awhile to process all of what I have felt in the past month, but today I am feeling thankful.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Change in Plans....

The toughest thing about our entire journey through infertility has been uncertainty. There have been hundreds times when we didn't know what the right answer was, because we were overwhelmed by what ifs? We pushed on, we had faith, we kept running the race. When we took Ashley into our home, it was the hope that she would be our forever child. We were only foster parents, we made no promises to anyone, but it would be a lie to say that we didn't this child to be our child. It was so hard to pray for God's plan while in my mind planning for forever. She settled in and seemed happy and things felt good. I was sure this had to be God's plan.

In the past two weeks, I have been reminded that God's plan can be so different and much more awesome than we are able to imagine. Three weeks ago, I called Jill to complain about the fact that I just kept feeling nauseated and tired. She suggested a pregnancy test and I thought I should take one to not have to pay for it at the doctor's office when they wanted to figure what weird virus I had. That night a positive sign appeared. Justin and I were in shock, the next morning a second positive sign sent me to the Dr.'s where they confirmed that we will be having a baby in June. This is such and overwhelming miracle that I am not sure that I have fully processed the epic blessing we have received. I really relate to Sara and Abraham.

My amazement at this miracle has been tinged with stress at the question "what about Ashley?" Around the time that we discovered we were pregnant, her behaviors escalated dramatically. Mornings have become intense. She argumentative and angry. We haven't told her about the baby, because we don't know how she will react. From the moment I discovered I was pregnant, I have ping ponged from the highest mountain of joy, to the lowest depths of despair. As her behavior has escalated, our inquiries, through our social worker and my intense "Micheal Lomas do what I tell you" voice, led to the discovery that DHS, and her social workers, failed to inform or openly lied to us to us about several things.

I have spent the past 24 hours being very angry, sad, guilty, frustrated, and generally feeling like a failure. The fact that we are pregnant disqualifies us from being an adoption option for Ashley, she needs to be an only child, however I am not even sure that we can be a foster resource to get her to adoption, because I am not sure that we are equipped to deal with all of her issues. That isn't true, I know that I am not equipped to deal with her issues. I am frustrated that we were honest about what we could handle and were lied to and put in this position.

Juxtapose this with constant wonder at somehow becoming pregnant with no fertility drugs and no major effort and combine it with pregnancy hormones and I have been a nutcase for the past 48 hours. My friend Gabrielle talked me down last  night and gave me some very wise words that I have clung to today. My Mom reminded that Ashley is ultimately God's child and no matter what I do, I clearly cannot comprehend the wondrous plans he may have for her.

This is very wise and offers hope, but it doesn't change the fact that there is a part of me that feels awful for not being what I hoped I could be for this girl. I would never not want this baby, or regret being pregnant, but I feel like I should be able to do it all, gracefully, without complaining. I have to let go. I have to admit that I cannot do all I think I should be able to. I have to admit that I cannot handle this child's issues and that I have failed at taking care of her. That breaks my heart.

I feel as if I let all the people who have supported us through this time down. So many people were rooting for us, and I am pained at the thought of having to tell them that it isn't going to work out. I am thankful for all the love and support that we have received and I am so sorry that I can't do it. Even as I write this I know it sounds silly, but this blog is about me being honest and at the moment I am simultaneously still amazed that I am pregnant and feeling like such a failure.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Today I experienced a part of parenting a child who has experienced extreme trauma that I knew was possible, but never realistically considered seeing. I don't want to go into the details of what happened, but I was genuinely frightened and I had no logical concept of how to deal with situation. It was purely God intervening and getting me through it. When I got to work, I locked the door to my room, kept the lights off and sat at my desk and cried. I had such sorrow for this child and was so scared about what else could happen. A chat with some coworkers who have experience with difficult children, a long email to my husband, and a phone call to our social worker got me through my day.

Our social worker rearranged her entire schedule in order to be able to come over and speak with us this evening. That is how awesome she is. She listened and assured me that I wasn't overacting and then mapped out a plan. By the time she left, I felt like we weren't alone and that things were going to be ok. In the past few weeks, I have been learning that I thought was the plan, is far from the plan. Maybe my job isn't to plan, but to do my best to get through today.

God truly cares for this child and I have faith that no matter what happens in the future, He holds  her in the palm of his hand. This is hard, but to be honest nothing about this has been easy. I feel like parts of me are being ripped open and brought out. This is a painful process, but in the end it will be for my good. Today, I had to stop and say "God, I am scared and powerless and out of ideas". I had to get out of the way. I had to keep stopping and handing my anxiety off to him.

I am still scared, I am still hurt, and there is a huge part of me that feels like a failure. I hate not excelling and exceeding at things, and I truly hate admitting when things are too hard for me to handle. Friends, the truth is, there is a lot going on at the moment that I am struggling to handle. There is a lot about the reality of this child's life that overwhelms and horrifies and frightens me, and when I admit that, I feel like a selfish awful person. I am a selfish awful person. God makes me a better person, but only if I willing to submit to his plan and put my plan aside. Psalm 139 says "You have searched me and you know me." God knows the ugliest, darkest parts of me and He loves me anyway. I clung to this today. I am still clinging a little tonight.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Breaking Point

A showdown has been building for the past two weeks. Every morning there is a new layer of defiance, or a slowness to respond to a direction. Maybe the child chooses to take her time getting out of the car on the way home or says things like "you can't tell me, just kidding". For two weeks, I have tried to hold it together, to respond calmly and rationally to the little pin pricks of annoyance, but this morning I lost it. A tantrum about getting ready, a refusal to wear a bathing suit and a string "Ok, Ok, Ok, Ok Juli Ann I hear you!" while I was attempting to speak to her about the choices she was making pushed me over the edge. I was just plain mad.

In a tone that sounded very much like my angry mother coming back across the decades, I let Miss Thing know that she did not speak to me like that, that she would do what I told her, and that I was done with her games. I shouldn't have done it, because there was a part of her that loved it. Up until this point we have refused to engage in this game, but this morning she had co-player and she went for it. I went to the kitchen to get water and calm down. She continued to shout complaints and announcements from her room. When I went back for round two, Justin opened the door and told us all to calm down, and she smiled a little smile and went back to her room.

Now I wasn't just upset and mad at myself and the kid, now I was frustrated at my husband as well.  How dare he undermine me like that? He doesn't know what has been going on, and you know what, she never pulls the attitude with him that she pulls with me. What followed was a mini fight between Justin and I, a long period of silence before swim lessons and a child who was waffling between enjoying the situation and clearly not sure about the situation.

When they left for swim lesson, I picked up the phone to call my Mom and tell her what a martyr I was. She listened to the whole story, and told me to grow up and figure it out. Turns out, I am not the only mother who can tell the child how "it is". She didn't abandon me, she did offer to problem solve with me. She told me to pray and she reminded me that I had a pretty amazing husband who was just trying to bring peace to his home. Moms, I didn't want to be one and I didn't know how much I liked having one.

I took a deep breath, had some coffee and took the cat to the vet (ear infection no biggie) and when I came home, I was still cranky. My mother called and suggested I run errands with her and give myself some time to think and process.  Moms, always showing up to help when you didn't know you wanted them. So, I went off with my Mom, who bought me lunch and told me a bunch of stories of moments she would take back. The crazy thing is, the fight she really regrets between us (involving me about to be picked up by Sean Mansfield for something and freaking out on her about my crappy clothes that suck and why don't we have money and ending with  me not going anywhere for that night or several nights) I didn't really remember until she brought it up. I am sure at the time I was furious and wrote pages in my journal about it, but I had nary a memory until she reminded me.

She told me that it was on a Friday night and she was so tired and stressed about making the mortgage because she was paying for me to go to DC and had bought me a homecoming dress and she felt like I was being ungrateful. Clearly I was ungrateful. In fact, my 33 year old self really wants to go back and slap my 16 year old self.  I also felt so awful that my Mom had no one to tag out to. No one was going to open a door and tell her to calm down. No one was going to take the child away and give her time to think.

That is when the neon light of "BAD WIFE!" "UNGRATEFUL WIFE" "FAILURE AS A MOTHER" "YOU WEREN'T MEANT TO HAVE CHILDREN" "EVERYONE CAN DO THIS BETTER THAN YOU CAN" "YOU DON'T DESERVE YOUR FAMILY!" came pouring into my mind. I had lost it. I could never fix it. I sucked. My mother, who has uncanny telepathy, told me to get it together everyone has bad days and what are you going to do about it. Moms, knowing you better than you know yourself and using that knowledge against you.

So, I talked it out with my Mom. I told her how frustrated I was. How every morning was a landmine of whining and cajoling ending with me frustrated and stressed. I told her how I felt like a biological Mom would be better at handling it and how I was afraid that this was a taste of bigger and badder behaviors that I was not equipped to handle. I told her that I don't remember the last time I slept through the night and that my job seems to getting more stressful by the day. I told her that money worry is oppressive and how I feel like I am not doing a good job at any of my jobs. Then my Mom hugged me. Moms, knowing how to make you feel better without having to say anything.

My big solution was to pray. I put all out there to God and asked for help. I realized that my love wasn't enough and I needed something bigger. By the time I got out of church tonight I had a plan and some peace. In conversation with the child I laid it all out. After apologizing for speaking in a "mean" voice, I explained that from here on out I would tell her what time she needed to be ready and expect her to do it. Whatever state she is in at the time we have to leave is the state she will leave in. If that means messy hair and an unmade bed, so be it. I also told her that if she complained about her clothes, I wasn't going to argue. I would simply take those clothes and donate them to a kid who needed them, and she would be responsible for buying new ones. 

I also told her I love her, but I knew that she was behaving this way to gain some control and get some attention. I reminded her that she has all of our attention and we will not be rewarding her for her negative actions. She was quiet, but seemed to get it. It will be a challenge. I will struggle to leave the house with a kid with messy hair and not feel like it is a testament to my crappy parenting, but I will persevere, or at least call my Mom for strength. Moms, always there when you need them.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

You've got a friend in me....

The last two weeks have been filled with a lot of friendship talk. Ashley has never really had friends before and has had some issues determining what makes a good friend and what makes a bad friend. She has been exposed to some girls who are definitely in the latter category. One of them has a very strong personality and seems to suck the other girls into making poor choices. We have had a lot of talks about how you have to walk away and when do you know if someone if is your friend. Part of me feels awful, this kid is finally connecting with her peers and we have to break the bubble and let her know that not everyone is good, not everyone is honest, and some people are mean.

This has been an extra struggle for me because I don't remember "learning" how to make friends. When I asked my Mom about this, she pointed out that from the ages of 3-10 I was glued to the side of Nicole. This was a bonus in the friend making market, I never worried about making friends because I always had Nicole. I think we must of stood up for one another, I don't remember being angry at other kids for being mean to me, but I do remember yelling at a girl who lived in our neighborhood and was mean to my cousin. I guess by the time we moved to Oregon, I was old enough to just figure it out. Plus, I am pretty comfortable talking to anyone so that helps.

It is weird how much you forget about growing up. The little things, like the belief that any kid that comes up to you is going to be your friend or that Narnia may really be in the back of your closet. That coloring and singing are the two greatest things ever and that every day is a brand new adventure. Mostly I am amazed at Ashley's resiliency. Somehow, despite all she has been through, she has managed to hold onto her innocence and her belief that people are good. That is a miracle.

I hope she learns what a good friend is, and I pray that God sends her some amazing friends to bless her life. Friends have always been hugely important in my life and I want her to have those people that she can connect with at any moment. I truly hope she meets someone in elementary school. There is something special about a friend, or cousin, who can remember when set the house on fire because you wanted to know what would happen you microwaved the Kleenex; and  who was willing to always to be the first to try our homemade Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

As we become adults, those people become more precious because they connect us back to a time that feels so far away. I know that the road of friendship isn't always easy. Sometimes, you spend most of high school being friends with a girl who is mean to everyone, and goes crazy when she isn't elected homecoming princess, and it takes one clear moment of her being mean to someone else to walk away. There are moments when the dorky boy who never has lunch is assigned to sit across from you at lunch and even though you are annoyed at the time, he turns out to be one of your oldest friends. People will hurt you, and not everyone will turn out to be your best friend, but I hope that Ashley learns how to give people a chance. I also hope that she gets to experience the joy of being a good friend with someone for a long time.

A lot of foster kids miss out on this, and they are the ones who really need friends. I hope each the lonely foster kiddos out there get to have one true friend. To all my friends, old and new, thank you. I feel like I have been slacking in the friendship category the past few months, but please know that I can't wait to see and catch up with each of you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

So what? I'm still a rockstar....

There is so much that I want to be writing about right now, and yet I have NO time. I actually pause at moments in the day and think "that would be a good thing to blog about". This means I have ten sticky notes and no blogs. The last two weeks have been killer, not for any one reason, but for a myriad of intricate connecting stressors. The biggest of these being that I never got back in my devotions groove after we got back from Wisconsin. This is not a good. It is amazing how quickly we slip away from the things that keep us connected to God. This is a time when we really and truly need some God attention.

I know that all parents live in a world of "what ifs?" and "we don't knows", but we don't even know if the child we are parenting will be our child. Without giving away too much, all I can say is that our social worker came over tonight essentially to tell us the truth and to bring light to somethings that we had been left out of some of our conversations with other people. I was releived to see her, and even though she didn't say what I wanted her to, I was thankful to have someone who is honest and wise. She didn't have to come and spend time making sure we had a true picture of al that was happening, but she did and I am so grateful for that.

Today I was reminded that we are living on God's timeline, not ours. Whatever my plan is doesn't matter, God's plan will work to the good of all people involved. I am a weak person, who is easily defated by small whispers of unfaithful thoughts. I have a tendency to get wrapped up in my own head and become concerned with my feelings and my issues. This is such an icky way to be.

This morning I spent some quality devotion time asking for forgiveness and resubmitting my life, family, job and future to God's plan. It is so easy to be led astray and sucked in by all the things that the world brings at you. I am ashamed to say that while we have been working on one of the biggest changes in our lives, I have not been turning to God for guidance.

I slipped right back into my "control it" mode. I read a lot, I speak in a knowing manner. I sound so self assured and confident. I seem so with it, but inside there is a part that is so scared of making the wrong choice it can't let go. There is a part of me that is elated and a part of me that is resentful to the bchange in my life. How can all of this ever make sense?

I need to put all of it in God's hands and turn on the "let it go" mode. This is easier said than done, but I feel like today I made small progress. Hopefully some honest prayer and petition will enable to sleep through a night. The future is not my concern, how I am going to embrace God's love and plan today is my concern. It is time to get my faith back and leave my selfishness behind.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Whatta Mighty Fine Man

I married a man, not just in the gender terms, but in the good provider, totally responsible, self-sacrificing, upstanding, proud to be wife of man. My husband is loyal to the core. I fell in love with him on epic road trip to Disneyland. The longer we are together, the more I love him. His support for me through our journey of infertility was amazing and if you had asked me if there was anyway I could be more proud of, or more in love with, him a month and a half ago I would have said no.

That was before I saw him as a father. Justin the dad is amazing and he hasn't had it easy. Ashley wanted nothing to do with him for the first two weeks that she was here. She would refer to him in third person and refuse to engage with him no matter what he tried. It was painful to watch. He had waited so long to be a dad and the child was rejecting him. Neither of us knew what to do. He was angry and frustrated and hurt, but he didn't give up.

He doubled his efforts. He played Barbies and took her to the park. He encouraged her at swim lessons and crafted special days for the two of them. If she ignored him, he kept going back. When she seemed fearful, he reassured. No matter what she did , he continued to be there for her and after a herculean effort, she melted for him.

She misses him when he isn't home, and I am not allowed to read the story because "you don't do the voices good like Justin". She is worried about getting two spelling words wrong and swearing to work harder to impress him next week. When I pick her up from school, her first question is always "is Justin home yet?" This week she pretended to attack him so that she could give him a hug. I almost broke down and cried.

Justin the dad is choosing each day to demonstrate to Ashley that he is realiable and truly cares about her. No man has ever done this for her. You can see her blossom and grow in light of his love. I never thought I could love him more, but watching him the last month has made me fall in love with him in an all new way.

I am so thankful to blessed with such an amazing man as my husband and I hope I can be a wife who makes him feel blessed as well. Someone once told me that ninety percent of parenting was just showing up, but I think ninety percent of love is showing up. Justin shows up everyday to support and love us.  I am so excited to watch him grow as a person and a dad.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Extended Family

My definition of family is broader than the traditional. I have two half siblings and an entire step family. It isn't until I stop to explain the intricate web of my family that I am reminded that not everyone has the same diverse connections in their family. As complicated and diverse as my family is, it is also a huge blessing. As a child, I was literally surronded by people that loved me. My safety net was large, and I am the person I am today because my mother allowed me to have a myriad of relationships. This blessing has uniquely prepared me to parent the child we were given.

We spent the weekend coordinating visits with Ashley's sisters. They live in seperate homes and have seperate foster families. Somehow our three families have to coordinate interactions so that these three girls are able to maintain their sisterly bond. Ashley and I share the role of being the much younger sister. With this comes a strange combination of adoration and distance. When you are seven, it is a struggle to connect with your thirteen year-old sister (let alone your 20 year old mother of two sister).

Ashley's sisters are 13 and 14 and they both clearly care about her. It breaks my heart that these girls live apart. I can't imagine what my world would have been like without the constant love and support of my two sisters.  At the same time, Ashley has grown a lot in her time with us and it is clear that her being the only child in the house is the positive choice for her.

The reality of taking care of this child is that we now have become members of a much larger family that is focused on creating the healthiest environment for these children as we possibly can. The bonus is that it gives Ashley the feeling of being an only child, but at the same time she can be  a member of a much larger family. Not only will she slowly learn her way through our biological families, but she also gets to be part of the best parts of her biological family.

My hope is that if it all works out as we would like it to, these families will be part of our lives for a long time and hopefully Ashley will be able to look back and appreciate a large safety net of biological, foster, and hopefully adoptive families. I hope that she can reach the point where she forgets who is part of what category and just feels lucky to have such a large extended family.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bring it

This has been a tough week. After shopping for new clothes on Sunday, Ashley had a major melt down. The rest of week has been a cycle of test and consequence, test and consequence. She has this habit of whispering disrespectful comments under her breath and this week we have been working on breaking that habit. The thing is that even though it has been a hard week, it finally is starting to feel like we are real parents and this is our real kid. It helps that the "real" problems we are having are mostly regular seven year old problems. This week we have dealt with "I don't want to do homework" and "Where is my????? I know I put it back where did you put it?" We have also encountered some specific foster kid things.

Ashley is good at dropping information about her biological family that is shocking and upsetting, but at the same time they are her reality and we have to honestly listen to her without making her feel bad. Too be honest, motherhood is currently my sanctuary. I am not getting into the teaching groove, and I have no patience. I know that this is because I am now spending my home time managing another child, but I do not want to put up with your crap, and I recognize that this some point I will get the hang of it, but I don't want to waste my time grading your half done crappy assignment.

I take the time to plan lessons designed to teach you something. I respect you enough not to waste your time by assigning busy work, please respect mine enough to not hand me an unreadable assignment  that has been crumpled at the bottom of your backpack for the last week. I don't think I am a particularly tough teacher, but I feel like the past week has been full of me having the same conversation about responsibility over and over again.

On a random tangent, I am much stricter parent than I ever thought I would be. I always imagined myself as a more "whatever" kind of Mom.  I may be more strict than my own mother (of course, I was her last and she was pretty tired by the time I came along). Forays into public have demonstrated that I definitely bring the Linda Lomas tone to the table. My mother did laugh at me when I explained to Ashley that we were not rich and would not be buying all the clothes that she wanted, my Mom cited deja vu. This morning, when I spoke to Ashley about the tone of voice that she was talking to me in, I swear my mother possessed my body and began to speak through me. I turned out to be a functioning human being so being like my Mom is not the worst parenting decision I can make.

 I am struggling to keep up with my devotions. I usually do them in the morning and I have been choosing sleep over devotion time. This has been affecting my attitude in general. Overall, we are good and moving towards some big things. Is everyone as tire as I am? I would kill for a manicure/best friend afternoon.....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

This Princess wears Doc Martins

Having the responsibility of raising a seven year old has made me hyper aware of how gender roles are portrayed to little girls. Have you been to the girls section of a clothing store lately? I dare you to find non pink or purple clothes, maybe some jeans without sparkles, how about some plain old tennis shoes? Than there are the sexually inappropriate clothes, the tight jean skirt, low cut tank top, or sexy pants. What are we telling these girls?

I am also overwhelmed with Disney Princesses, and I LOVE Belle. I am a HUGE supporter of going to Disneyland, watching Disney movies and occasionally playing with dolls, but I do not want Ashley's world view to be shaped with the idea of happiness coming in the form of a princess. We have been struggling to find appropriate television that she is in to. So many Disney channel shows portray young girls who are a. mean b. disrespectful c. only want to find love d. all of the above. WHAT ARE WE TELLING YOUNG GIRLS??????

Where is their Punky Power? When I was Ashley's age, I loved princesses. I adored Sleeping Beauty, and I also played with Barbies. However, Nicole and I also solved mysteries like Nancy Drew, or had incredible adventures in which we were the hero's. I have no memory of us playing house. Our dolls served as villains and foes or friends in our epic quest. I was obsessed with Strawberry Shortcake, whose main message was that you can do anything if you work with you friends to accomplish it. Nicole loved Miss Piggy, who fought her way to respect, but still wore fabulous clothes.

My bike was pink, but we would still crash into one another while trying to recreate Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (not a game I recommend, Nicole broke several bones in our many attempts to make this ride happen) On TV I not only watched Punky, but Rudy on the Cosby show, and Sam on Whose the Boss? Rudy went out and played football and Sam could fight the boys. Growing up a decade after the feminist movement, I was surrounded by messages of strong women and girls, who assured me all options were open.

I wore girly clothes, but I also had jeans and a tshirt. Most importantly, not everything I owned was branded with the face of a princess or cartoon. Nicole and I had matching Cabbage Patch Kid outfits and that is the extinct of my character wear. Also, my clothes did not look like mini versions of my teenage sisters outfits. They were specifically designed to play in.

In the past few weeks, I have realized how lucky I was to go through adolescence during the Grunge period. I could wear my cute plaid skirt with some tights and my Doc Martins, or a flannel, a tshirt and some birkenstocks. I don't remember the obsession over clothes that my student's display, perhaps other girls did it, but my friends and I spent the summer with our hair in ponytails, soccer shorts, tshirts or tank tops and adidas sandals.

I don't remember thinking about gender roles when I was a child, but Ashley is very aware of them. She will ask me questions about what boys and girls can or can't do. The other day, she wore her pink Packer jersey to school and a boy told her not to wear because girls don't play football. When I told her that I knew two girls who played varsity football at our high school, she replied she would rather be a princess. Now I don't want her to play football if she doesn't want to, but I also want her to feel empowered. The other day she pointed out that a lot of "stars" have babies, "having a baby makes you popular" is what another girl told her on the playground. People they are SEVEN.

So, I will continue to enjoy a princess song, but interject some other influences. I want her to know that the world is open to her and that she defines what her gender role is. Whether she wears pink or blue, plays football or is a cheerleader, is a stay at home mom or a teacher like she says she wants to be, I want her to be able to say that all options were open to her and she kicked open the door she wanted. Maybe by the time she goes to prom, it will once again be cool to wear your Doc Martins with your dress? One can hope....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Abounding Joyfulness

After a great weekend with the Lindemann clan, it was hard to get on the plane and come home. It was one of those weekends where you just look around and think, how did we get this blessed this fast. I wanted to take some time today and offer up some thankfulness for the many blessings that God has given to my family and friends in the past few weeks:

1. Nick and Sophia: my brother in law has the kindest heart and he waited for a woman worthy of that heart for a long time. Sophia is perfect for him and a perfect addition to our family. Nick couldn't stop looking like he was still was dreaming. It was great to celebrate their love.

2. March Madness: Nick and Sophia's blessings continues with the hand off of a sonogram. This picture of our future niece or nephew was adorable and once again, Nick looked at us like he couldn't figure out what he did to get here. Although if he doesn't know, I am not going to be the one to explain it to him.

3. Fun times with family: From a dance party to a cheese curd orgy, it is always fun to hang out with family. Nathan, Caitlin and Lexi were funny and entertaining. Logan, Cindy and I were carded, there was a Packer game, Jeff looks healthy and made me laugh. I lost at Farkle and ate way too much food. Sometimes it fun to just hang out and laugh.

4. Fried Cheese Curds: I love them and I am glad that I have to fly 6 hours to be able to eat them. Otherwise, my behind would need it's own zip code.

5. My Mom & Jonathan: It was easy to relax and enjoy knowing that Ashley was with my Mom and Jonathan. She had an amazing time and had story after story to share with us. I am thankful that they took the time to make her feel special.

6. Starbucks: kept me from killing anyone. Thank you for putting a store in Manitowoc.

7. Sophia Gamble: Our friends Anna and Bryan welcomed their first child on Sunday. They are great people and such loving friends. I am so happy for them and excited to meet Sophia.

8. Ashley: everything we experienced this weekend was fun and amazing, but nothing was better than coming to a note that had the words "mom" and "dad" on it. It was a miracle. We still don't know what the future holds, but we are going to trust God with that and revel in this moment.

So much to be thankful for!

Monday, September 12, 2011


The Princess Bride wedding has one of the greatest movie weddings. On my wedding day, I kept saying it to myself. "Mawwiage, Twue Wove". It is brilliant. This weekend we are flying to Wisconsin to celebrate my brother in law Nick's marriage to the beautiful and brilliant Sophie. I am very excited to add another girl to the Lindemann side of the family. We are outnumbered.

Parenting has added a whole new dynamic to my marriage. I feel like we just started a new level in the marriage video game. When you have been with someone for a decade, you know how to push one another's buttons. Our ability to get under the other skins and annoy each other is truly an art form. In the exhaustion of caring for a child, it is easy to resort to picking on one another. It is also tempting to play the blame game " I did this, well I did that." In the stress of work and life, our instinct is to lash out at the person we love the most.

The other night Justin and I had one of those talks. The brutally honest lay it on the table kind of talk. The we are going to put our heads down and push through to other side talk. What I love about those talks, is that even though they are hard and heartbreaking they take us to another level of intimacy. We actively chose to show one another our biggest fears, to be vulnerable and trust that the other person wasn't going to run. Every time we have one these talks, I feel like we just added another brick to the foundation of our lives.

The other side of being together for a decade, is that that foundation is thick and strong. It is easier to be honest about our fears because we have weathered many storms together. To me this is where true love comes in. I love romance (and long for a romantic dinner at an amazing restaurant), but true love shows up at the hard moments. It pushes up it sleeves and digs in. True love is making the choice you don't want to, because it is better for the other person. True love is carrying your partner when they don't have the strength to do it themselves. It is loving someone even when you know all the bad stuff, in fact you sort of love the bad stuff too.

Marriage is work. In order to stay strong, you have to put in the time. You must be vigilant and watch for cracks in the foundation. At times it can require all you have to give, but the rewards are so great that the sacrifice is easier. I am so thankful that I get to go through life with Justin. He is so perfectly made for me. Even his stubbornness, which drives me crazy, is the perfect balance to my domineering tendencies.

As I prepare for this weekend's celebration, I can't help but think of my own wedding day and the moment they opened door and I saw him at the altar. It sounds cheesy, but the whole world telescoped in on him and I don't remember anyone else from that night. It felt so right. I hope that Nick and Sophie enjoy a lifetime of happiness. Only one more Lindemann boy to marry off.....

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tapas Part Duex

Picking Ashley up from spending a the evening with her sister and singing in the car, watching her ride her bike, reading a story together before bed (even though we missed Justin and really want to know if Edmund can be saved from the White Witch we read a differant story so we could find out with him) talking about her swim lessons tomorrow and watching her get excited about earning a token made the tiredness go away. She is pretty adorable.


I have spent the past three hours alone and it has been glorious.  So glorious that I am concerned. The past 48 hours have been killer. It has been a long hot week at work and I just wasn't on my A game in connecting with students. I realized today that I barely know their names. Justin and I haven't had time alone forever and I don't know when we will get it. Miss Ashley handled her first week of school ok, but yesterday the behaviors we had been warned about started to break through.

She is obsessing on things. Asking the same question over and over again. She will look at a picture or hook onto an idea or event and not let it go. 10,000 questions and a constant need to know everything will follow. While I am cognizant that this is related to her emotional needs, it can get really annoying. She has also started having some extreme mood swings, her moods can change in an instant and they are extreme. Overly happy or overly sad.

I know that this is all part of who she is and that her issues are no larger than average foster kid, and she has also been funny and sweet and adorable, but a week of work has made it hard to be patient. There is a part of me that resents her being here. I want to come home and take my husband to tapas, drink sangria and laugh.

Every couple/family deals with these same issues. I am just tired. I know that change is hard for Ashely, but it is hard for us too. Now what? I just want what is best for this child and for our marriage, but I am tired. Did I mention that I am tired?  Mostly, I don't want to have to put more changes in her life.

Her social worker had found a new job, which means she will have a new social worker. This social worker could feel that the sisters need to be together and move her. Just the introduction of new person is going to suck. I know that this is in God's hands, but when you are tired it is hard to hold onto. I am going to spend my last few minutes alone focusing on Jeremiah 29:11 and than I will forge back into the breach.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Big Enough

How do you know if your heart is big enough?  How big does your love have to be? How much bigger does your faith have to be? What if you can't grow your heart? What if your faith fails you? I have struggled with these questions since Ashley moved into our home.

When I was a young woman, fresh out of high school, I made a choice that led me away from my faith. I believed a lie. I embraced the idea that I had sinned too much and gone too far. I accepted that God's love wasn't big enough to forgive me. I also operated from the most selfish place possible. See once you believe that you are worthless and not worth loving, you become a selfish person. Everything you do is motivated by the desire to prove that you are worth something. You become so wrapped up in your pain, that you are unable to identify with the pain of others. When you have lived your entire life believing that God's love is all encompassing, the lose of that love is earth shattering.

A decade ago, I believed that my sin was bigger than God's love. That my choices had banished me from his heart and that he couldn't or wouldn't deal with me.  My junior year of college I was sitting in the middle of the dirtiest house on earth waiting for my roommate and her boyfriend to stop fighting. His roommates begin to have a bible study and in the middle of that bible study a man got up and walked over to me. "You may not think God loves you" he said "but he does, all he wants to do is love you". With that he went and sat back down and they continued with their study, but that was the chink that made my heart slowly melt.

I no longer questions God's ability to love, what I doubt is my own ability to emulate that love. I am overwhelmed by how much this child needs me, and I mean me specifically. Justin is making headway, but she hasn't really had relationships with men before. I am her life jacket in this sea of change. Yesterday, I felt like I was drowning. She needed reassurance and guidance, she  needed to be listened to and loved. I needed space. I felt like I had lost myself. Somehow in one week, I was this person who existed solely to care for this child.

I am cognizant of the fact that this is a blog about how much I want to be a mother and all I am describing is motherhood. However, I didn't get the advantage of the hormone that comes at birth and bonds you to your child and I constantly terrified that I will somehow add to the scars she already has.  In short, my heart doesn't feel big enough.  Last night I was positive that we had made a huge mistake and were only going to cause pain.

I confessed all of this to my husband, who has been struggling in his own way, and instantly felt better not being alone. I spent the afternoon with my Mom, it is her birthday, and spent the whole time wondering how often she wanted to scream and run. My Mom was all we had. She was Mom and Dad. She wasn't always perfect, but she was always there and I never doubted for a moment that she loved me. She is still there, calling, supporting, and loving me. It isn't always the right words or what I would do, but is always love.  See, both my parents love me, but my Mom was willing to stick around and choose daily to demonstrate her love for me by her faithfulness. Her heart wasn't extra big, and I am sure that she had doubts, but she just kept going.

Tonight, we had a  minor disaster involving and infected earring hole. I held her and told her she was brave while Justin pulled out the earring. Then we read a chapter of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and spoke about how scary a new school can be. As we turned off the light, she rolled over so I could kiss her cheek. My heart grew in that moment. God helps our love grow when we choose to move forward in faith. Choose loving actions and a loving heart will follow. If we do nothing else, we will support, discipline and love her. After all, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Edge

This past week flew by. Between moving Ashley in and starting work, it feels like time has passed in a blur. I have so many things that I want to write about, but am still struggling to organize my thoughts. Our first week has been very uneventful. Ashley has been pretty well behaved and has handled a lot of change as well as she can. In fact we haven't seen any of the behaviors we were warned about.

I think they are coming though. The reality of all the change is beginning to hit her. On Thursday, she finally cried about how she missed her sister and didn't want to go to a new school. I don't know how she felt, but I felt relieved. She has been quiet all day. It is finally becoming clear that she really lives here and these changes are permanent. At the same time, nothing in her life has been permanent (and there is no guarantee that we are the last stop) she has dealt with more loss at seven than Justin and I ever have.

This means that she is afraid to trust, that she has no idea how long we will want her or what she might do that we can't handle. We are scared too. What if we can't handle it?  It is like we are all standing on the edge of a cliff. If we could just fall than we would be able to figure it out. It is the waiting that is killer.

So, we are taking it a day at a time. Which is really all any of us can do with anything in life.  We are trying to set systems of discipline in place, to pour as much love as we can into her, to give her a safe place.  She does really miss her sister and we are trying to get them together. We recently learned that her case worker will be changing jobs. This will lead to another adult entering her life, and the reality is that the new caseworker may not think that we are the best placement or that the girls should be separated. She may have a whole other plan on mind.

This is why I pushing each day to leave it all in God's hands. Whether Ashley is our "forever" child, or just someone we have been called to love, only God knows. All we can do right now, is help her grieve the changes that have happened and try to limit anymore.

On another note, I have received several compliments about "what we are doing", and I know that these are truly meant as compliments and I appreciate the support, I don't think that what we are doing is noble or special. I think it something that needs to be done. There are thousands of Ashley's in Oregon. Meth has given our state one of the largest foster care systems in the nation. Justin and I aren't more noble, more patient, or better equipped than you are. In fact, we have never been parents before and are therefore less equipped. All we did was say yes to what we could do. What can you do?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Future Fears and Present Joy

You shall go forth in joy and be led in peace.... Isaiah 55:12

Yesterday while driving to work I had a conversation with God. It went like this:

God: Why aren't you more joyful at this opportunity to be a mother?

Me: It isn't that I am not joyful, or thankful, I am just trying to be realistic. Ashley is technically our foster child and there are no guarantees that we will be able to adopt her. Also, her former foster parents struggled with some oppositional defiance and tantrums. What if those come up and they are more than we can handle? I just don't want to put all my eggs in one basket.

God: Love her as much as I love you.

Me: As much as you love me? As in no matter what, willing to die for, always there for, through thick and thin? I don't know if I am capable of that.

God: Love her as much as I love you and give her as much grace as I give you.

Me: Did you listen to my logical arguments as to why I can't give her my whole heart?

God: Love her as much as I love you and give her as much grace as I give you.

Me: But what if I get hurt? I don't know if I can handle that pain.

God: If you place your trust in me, I will handle it all for you. This isn't about you, think about how much that little girl has been hurt. She needs someone to love her and I have called you to do that. I will be there the whole time, and no matter what happens in the future, my love is enough to heal her hurts as well as yours, love her as much as I love you.

Me: (crying at this point) What if I can't love her? What if I mess up? What if I can't handle her behavior? What if I make a poor choice? How will this all effect my marriage? What if we weren't meant to be parents and that is why we never got pregnant? Was it really your plan to bring her here or did I just I pull a Sarah and force the situation? How will it ever work out?

God: Trust me, give me your fear, lean into my love and love her as I love you. I can take care of the rest. Go forth in joy and be led in peace.....

Me: Hey, wasn't that my devotion this your saying I should joyously go forth and love this child with my whole heart while peacefully acknowledging no matter what happens you are in control and will be with us the whole way?

God: Yes.

Me: (Still Crying) I am idiot. Thank you for this miracle Lord, and help me to love her as you have loved me. Take all my fears and anxieties, I give our family's future to you Lord. I will go forth in joy and be led in peace. Thank you for loving me enough to hold me accountable.

It is amazing how our anxiety and fear can overwhelm us in what should be our most joyous moments. The fears I have are not that different than the fears of a bio mom, but I let them eat away at me all weekend long. My Mom loved me despite of the choices I made and her love has carried me through so many tough times. The best gift I can give to Ashley is to love her with my all heart. Whether she is here for six months or sixty years, I am counting on God to help me give her the best love possible.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


On Friday our foster daughter, Ashley, moved in. We were so nervous. I am still  nervous. She is sweet girl who like princesses and American Girl. She likes to sing to herself in the shower and to play with her dolls. She likes swimming and is an overall good helper.

When we were told about her, we warned that she is prone to major temper tantrums and oppositional defiance. We haven't seen any of that, but we are still in the honeymoon period. We are all trying to figure one another out still. Unlike the twins, she can take care of herself in a lot of basic way and that is amazing. Like the twins, she has had a lot of trauma shoved into her seven years and that isn't awesome.

She is always asking questions and trying to figure stuff out. She wants to know what is going to happen and when it will happen. Part of this is seven and part of this is coming from a life of never knowing. In the past 72 hours, we have been reminded that being a foster parent means looking at the ugliest parts of humanity.

We are still sinking in. It is a lot like the first week of school, we are all nice and patient and not sure of ourselves. Today we had a family meeting where Justin and I outlined our basic expectations and how living in our house would work. Because we were told that she had defiance issues, we are taking a love and logic + positive behavioral support approach.  Today we started trying out the behavior support part. I printed out a behavior expectations chart and the three of us picked out two goals for her to work on this week.  We also introduced a token system. If she makes good choices, she gets tokens. She can turn these in for things she wants. Her current goal is to earn 14 tokens in two weeks so she can take swim lessons.

Our goal is put attention on her good choices and respond to her poor choices with little to no emotion. We know this won't work all the time, but hopefully it can help her see that good choices garner good attention.

My favorite part of the weekend has been family story time. Before Ashley goes to bed, the three of us gather in her room and Justin reads us The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. I don't know if she likes it as much as I do, but she did acknowledge that Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmund had to adjust to a new home, just like her.

Thank you for the support and prayers you have sent our way this week. It has made a difference. There is a calm in our home and a mild easiness to our interactions. I hope that we can continue to grow closer and relax together.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Foster Parents

Friday evening we will become the foster parents of a seven year old girl. Ours will be the third foster home that she will have lived in in two years and moving in with us means leaving her older sister behind. She is not currently free, but the state is terminating her parent's rights. She will be adoptable in six months.

Is it possible to be terrified and elated at the same time? In a matter of about three days, we committed to being this child's parents for, worst case scenario six months to a year, best case scenario her life. I spent most of the day in a mild panic. Unsure of how I will handle work, an admin program and motherhood, I have ping ponged through emotions.

She has reading and writing issues and emotional issues stemming from her time with her biological family. What if we can't handle them? What if they are too big for us? What if we fail? ( did anyone read yesterday's post about anxiety attacks? This is what they look like)

I spent some time reading the book of Hosea tonight. The prophet Hosea marries a woman that he knows will cheat him. No matter how awful the things she does are, Hosea always seeks her out and takes her back. Their marriage symbolizes our relationship with God. His unfailing love and constant grace far out way our sinful and selfish nature. In the midst of writing my fears in my prayer journal, God reminded me to pause and listen.

I have prayed for a child in God's plan and in his timing. I have prayed to be a witness of the healing power of Christ's love. I have prayed that we would be used to give love to a child who has not experienced the support of a family. This little girl represents all of those things.

No parent is prepared to handle what their children through at them. No couple knows what type of parents they will be until they are in the thick of it. However, all good parents commit to love their kids no matter what. No caveats, no what if's, no I can'ts. For the time that God places this child with us, we are called to make the same commitment. We can do it, because we have to do it.

This situation would be much scarier if we hadn't had the twins. They taught us that we can love a child, that we can support one another, that we have an amazing support network, that we are capable of being parents. I prayed non stop when the twins were here. It was the only way to truly survive. I am excited to bring this child into our home. She is the perfect age to love Belle and sing songs, play with dolls and take a dance class or play a sport. We will have Halloween and Christmas, we will be a family. Please pray for us and join me in praising God for loving us even when we are selfish and sinful.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


This is one of my favorite Dali paintings. It is called Cannibals in Autumn. I truly enjoy surrealist art, I love how the goal is to explore the images of the mind. Dali is one my favorite painters, his world intrigues me. I stumbled upon this painting when I was 21 and going through some intense therapy. I was taking an Art History class and when the slide of this painting came up, I felt like I was looking at how I was feeling.

I am the daughter of a man who suffers from extreme mental illness. My father is bipolar, depressed and, in my opinion, a sociopath. He doesn't live in this world. I imagine that his world resembles a surrealist painting, twisting and turning in on him. He has brief moments of peace, but a majority of his life is spent in a dark place. When he was a young man, there was no such thing as a school therapist or "warning signs" for depression. My grandparents had no way of knowing what was wrong with their son, or how to deal with it. My father chose alcohol as a way to self medicate, and it would take him decades to stop drinking.

When he stopped drinking, it took a long time to realize that he was mentally ill. He had been an alcoholic for so long, that no one knew what behaviors were alcohol related and what ones weren't.  When he first got sober, he slowly re-entered, or in my case entered, our lives.  When I was 12 he vanished again. He reappeared when I was 16 and managed to consistently stick around for a little over a decade. It took almost that entire time to understand that he was mentally ill and incapable of being a "normal" father.

In my early 20's, I started to have panic attacks. In all honesty, I probably had mild panic attacks all through high school, but I am very good at hiding when I am upset. In fact, my panic attacks involve me going very still and very quiet. I tend to shut myself off, go to a room or sit in the shower for a long time. I lived with Jill for almost two years before I told her how scared I was. My anxiety was overwhelming, my sense of failure pressed down on me. No one would ever love me, or accept me. I was disappointment to my family and myself and nothing I could do would change that.

It is hard to explain what extreme anxiety is like to someone who has never experienced it. It is not a logical disease. I know that getting a C on a paper does not equal failure, but in the midst of an anxiety attack I could convince myself that I should never go to that class again because I was going to fail it. Anxiety destroyed a lot of my relationships, it held me back from being successful, and it made me turn in on myself. I became like the cannibals in Dali's painting.

Ironically, my father was the first person to suggest that I go seek help. I think he saw what was happening and related. I know he was concerned about the copious amounts of alcohol that I was consuming.  Jill walked me to my first counseling session. This was the time that we truly became friends. I had been so sure that if I told her how crazy I was, she wouldn't want to be my friend. In fact the opposite was happened, she showed me what a true friend can do.

At the same time, I started talking to a guy I knew. He had also decided to lay off the drinking and make more positive choices about how to live his life. Though I barely knew him, I felt safe sharing things with him, he always listened and didn't judge. He was always there to walk me home and hang out and watch a movie.  I was lucky that he stuck around and asked me to marry him.

It took a solid year of weekly therapy to get my anxiety under control. I had to learn what feelings were and how to express them. I had to realize that there are more emotions than angry and happy. I let go of a lot of fear and slowly began to forgive my father for abandoning me for alcohol. He and I had the best relationship we could for five years. He took me to Paris.

There he told me that he wanted to take a trip with  me so that no matter what happened in the future, we would always have that memory together. When we got back to Manhattan, I figured out that he was refusing to take medication for his bi-polar issues. We had a huge fight about it. Over the next two years, we watched him slowly return to the dark place he fought to get out of. He is currently in prison, convicted of embezzling 70 million dollars, mostly from the elderly. We no longer have contact. I don't know that we ever will again.

I still deal anxiety on a daily basis. There are times in my life when it is worse. I have triggers, sitting around with nothing to do, too much stress at work, long periods of time without working out, illness.  I take medication to help control my anxiety. I fought this for a long time. I felt like taking medicine would make me look weak or admit I couldn't control myself, than I thought of my father and took myself off to the doctor.  Wellbutrin makes me a happy person. It helps me keep things in perspective. As my doctor says, you can't will your brain to change its chemistry.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

I am learning to cast my cares on Christ. To press in and lean against His strength. One of my favorite song lyrics is: "and if our God is for us, than who can ever stop us". In my life, my anxiety has often been the thing that has stopped or hindered me. As I move towards motherhood and embrace my roles as a wife and teacher, I am learning to accept and even love the quirky part of me that worries all the time.

I am also learning to give my father up to God. My Dad has delved so far into his mind that only the power of Christ's love can save him from himself. There are days when I am anxious for him. There are days when I am angry at him and there are days when I simply miss him, but there is never a day when I don't think of my Dad and pray for him.

The gift my father gave me was the ability to say that I was ill and needed help. I hope that I can offer that same gift to my child. If they are displaying signs of mental illness, I hope that my experiences will enable me to direct them towards help and to empathize with them. There is nothing more brave than admitting that you are hurting and need help.   I pray that I will continue to give more up to God and trust him to work out the road bumps that make me nervous.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pride goes before...

Why is it that just when I write a blog about patience, I am challenged to be patient? And why do I have this wise husband who holds me accountable to being patient? Some days, you just want to scream.  Yesterday was filled with pluses and minuses. Plus, I was officially accepted into PSU's Admin program and am excited to move on towards becoming an administrator. Career wise this is something I really want to do and the extra income will give us a lot of room to think about how we want to live our lives.

On the home front, we met with our social worker yesterday and she let us know that most adoptions are taking closer to two years than one. Part of this is because the state has cut her department in half and part is just the reality of adoption. It was a bit of hit to the gut. I have had my eye on next spring and now it could be the spring after that! This is one of those times when I have blogger's remorse. What was I thinking writing a long blog about the importance of faithfulness and patiently waiting for God's plan? I was an idiot! I don't want to patiently wait for God's plan. I want what I want and I want it now!

That is what I thought for most of yesterday and last night. I was just plain angry with God. How dare he? I have been patient and I deserve to have my desires fulfilled. Isn't that what he promises? As I was stewing in this last night, my husband asked me what my blog had been about? Darn him and his convicting me.  As I was trying to embrace my husband's reminder, good old Jeremiah 29:11 came roaring back into my head "plans to prosper you and not to harm you". This was followed by good old Hebrews 12:1 and "running the race with patience".

Big reminder Lindemann, this isn't about you. It is about your future child and what is best for them. It is about learning to embrace God's plan, even when you don't understand it. It is about living life with a joyful and generous heart no matter what. It is about being the best wife, daughter, sister, friend and teacher I can be.

This journey isn't always easy, but I have far more blessings than I can count.  I will continue to have faith. We are going to do respite care and emergency foster care and I am excited about that. I am choosing to put Jeremiah 29:11 on repeat and keep moving forward in faith.

Monday, August 15, 2011


There are a lot of infertile women in the Bible.  Sarah, Rachael, Hannah, Rebecca, and Elizabeth all struggle to have children. In the end, each is blessed to give birth to a child who changes the world. When I was in the darkest moments of my journey through infertility, I started reading a book entitled Hannah's Hope. It was the starting point for me finding way to a place of peace and healing.

I have been thinking about these women all day. Sarah stands out the most because she was an old woman when she finally gave birth to Isaac. God had been promising her a son for years, but she gave up hope and took matters into her own hands. She gave her maidservant, Hagar, to Abraham. When Hagar became pregnant, Genesis tells us that she became bitter towards Sarah, but I wonder how jealous Sarah was of Hagar? It must have torn her apart to see this slave woman giving her husband the one thing that she could not. Was she mean to Hagar? Did she cry herself to sleep at night? We know that she took her anger out on her husband and blamed him for the situation. His solution was to allow her to mistreat Hagar and Hagar ran away.

In the desert, God found Hagar and spoke to her. He told her that her son would also birth a nation and that she would be blessed through him. Hagar listened and returned to her mistress. It was almost a decade later before Isaac was born. Isaac was the fulfillment of God's faithfulness. He would go onto father generations of Jews, and through him God's promise to Abraham was fulfilled. However, his brother Ishmael would also go on to father a nation and their descendants are still fighting today.

In a moment of weakness, Sarah gave up on God's plan and implemented her own. She was impatient and tired of waiting, but her plan led her family to experience unnecessary pain and turmoil. If she had found a way to hold fast to her faith and patiently wait for God's plan, she may have saved herself, Abraham, Hagar, and their sons a lot of pain.  I really empathize with Sarah.

My husband is constantly reminding me to be patient, and I am always having to check in and ask "my plan" or "God's plan". It doesn't always work, I forge ahead and push things. This almost always ends up with some sort of hardship or pain. Why can't I be more patient?

I feel that this journey has been specially designed for me to learn to let go and learn to slow down. Adoption requires me to trust others, keep the faith, and not give in to despair. Infertility has taught me about honesty in marriage, the amazing love that can come from truly trusting your partner with your deepest fears, amazing friendships that I am unworthy of, and that true peace comes from letting go of my plan.

I am being challenged to let go in areas of my life beyond infertility. Our marriage is a partnership, but you can't always have two people at the wheel. I am learning to give stuff up to my husband and am amazed at how this little thing has strengthened our marriage.

I do not know when my child will come, but I have faith that they will come. Until they do, I have been charged with teaching 185 children a day. That in itself is a blessing.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Now it's time for so long...

Our first foray into respite care came to an end today. The twins went back home at noon. They were very happy to see their foster mom and she was excited that they remembered who she was.  It is impossible to write about the things we learned in the past 8 days. My father-in-law told me that he used to encourage couples who were considering becoming parents to "rent out" his children and really see what it is like. He is a very wise man.

Overall, we had fun. There were days that weren't as fun and we both broke down, but this experience confirmed that: adoption is the right choice for us, we are committed to fostering children after our adoption, and we will continue to provide respite care. Before the twins, the foster population was anonymous to us. As teachers we interact with foster kids, but the reality of who these children are and the precariousness of their lives only becomes clear when they are in your home. This week reaffirmed that we have been called to love some of these kids. That affirmation is important.

It also made me wonder why more people don't foster or adopt? If even a quarter of those who were able took in one of these children, it would work wonders for our society as a whole. These kids deserve to loved. They deserve to have someone who will kiss their booboos and rock them when they cry.  One of the most heartbreaking moments of this week occurred when we were trying to take pictures. They didn't know how to take a picture. We are used to kids who stop and pose when a camera comes out. These boys had no idea what to do. No one is taking pictures of their childhood. Please stop and consider what you can do now, or in the future, how can you help one of these kids out?

On a good note, the twins' Aunt has been found in Wisconsin and as soon as the State can terminate the Mom's rights ( a six month process) they will be off to live with their Aunt. She is excited to meet them and is flying to see them.  Not only do these to adorable boys get to live with a family that will love and care for them, they will grow up to be Packer fans. It as if they were sent to us to prepare them for their future.

I am sure I will have more to write later. I am happy to have my life back, and can't wait to have a romantic date at an adult restaurant.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Falling in love

It was bound to happen, two adorable little boys who are desperate for love and you can't help but give it to them. There is something terrible and magical about toddlers. They terrorize you and than turn around and give you a huge hug or smile and your heart melts. We have finally settled in at Casa de Lindemann.
We are still crowded, and teething, so there are moments of terror. However, we have had car sing alongs, and random hugs, cuddle time, and just plain funny antics. It will be hard to let them go on Saturday.
DHS called to arrange a visit with their mother this week. This will be their final visit with her. The state is terminating her rights. This means the twins will be in limbo as the state attempts to locate their father. They have a good foster family and their maternal grandparents are in the picture, but I cry when I think about the fact that they are being put into a system that could mean they never have a stable home.
Currently they spend time with their foster family and alternate weeks with their grandparents. This leads to some serious confusion about routine and expectations. They are too little not to have stability. They won't be adoptable for a couple years and I pray that they find a good family. Please join me in praying for these little guys. Pray that they will be loved and protected as they move through the system. Pray for a family that will love them and provide them with a solid foundation to become amazing men. I have never before felt so helpless, I have to keep reminding myself that these are God's children and he loves them more than I can imagine. I have faith that his plan is one of love and grace and that these boys will go on to have a healthy and happy life.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thoughts in the middle of the tornado.

1. Foster Mom glossed over some things and wasn't super honest about others. Example: "They can eat at the table and don't need high chairs." reality, they use high chairs at her house and tend to fall out of real chairs.

2. These twins remind me of Jonathan and Tim, my oldest nephews, one has brown hair, one blond, one is a picky eater, one is a daredevil and they hate and love each other very much.

3. God gives you a baby first so that when they become toddlers you are prepared. Being thrown into the middle of it is a little shocking.

4. Condo sucks for little kids. Our neighbors are crazy.

5. God Bless Caiullo

6. I have taken care of little kiddos before, Aly and I were all over NYC when she was 3 and 4, but 1 is is differant than two and Aly was surronded by people who adored her and loved her. Thankfully she never had to wonder if someone was going to leave or hurt her. These guys are wary. They were very unsure about cuddling and are just kind of angry and sad that they have been uprooted.

7. A chat with their foster mom let me know that they were drug babies. I really dislike people who do meth while pregnant.

8. They are adorable and like to take care of one another.

9.  I am a person who needs sleep and am a little crazy without.

10. I can't believe my Mom did this alone.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Respite 2 year old twins day 1

woke at 6am and drove home from Ashland.
Twins arrived at noon.
2 hr where the hell am I? fit before 30 minute nap
1 hr play time
45 minutes played at park
20 minute fit by one who didn't want to be in the stroller
10 times the other one told his screaming bro to be quiet
2 hrs playing
10 nuggets for dinner
5 sippy cups
Three diaper changes
Two baths
Two bottles
One kids asleep
The other fighting it while my amazing husband rocks him.

Our condo is too small for two year old twins.

They are adorable and the cats have been ok.
Routine is the key, Routine is the key.

I am exhausted.

Everytime a foster kid goes somewhere new, they don't know if it is forever or a week. As two year olds they can't communicate their fear, but they are pretty freaked out. I hate that they are two and have abandonment issues.

Even if we just get love them for a week, it is worth it.

I am exhausted. I love my husband. Just when we figure it out, they will go home.

Monday, August 1, 2011


No one tells you that infertility is work. Actually no one tells you that a planned pregnancy is work. There is a lot of tracking and planning. Infertility adds to the workload. For almost two years (which is almost no time in the infertility world, some women work for decades), I researched, measured, documented, timed, recorded data, advocated doctors, tried various diets, took pills, had a minor surgery, and tried to stay sane. Having a baby became my second job. My uterus was my boss and she wasn't nice. She was demanding and mean. I put in a ton of work and was never rewarded.

What I didn't know was that my job should have started five years before. When I was 25, I started gaining weight. I had intense pain in my side and went to the doctor with three ovarian cysts. The gynecologist I was seeing at the time, told me it was nothing and all women went through hormonal changes at various periods of their life. I didn't like his answer, but I didn't push for another opinion.

I didn't start pushing until I had issues getting pregnant. I went through three doctors before I got to my current obgyn. After looking at my data, my history and running tests she diagnosed me with polycystic ovary syndrome. I was happy just to know what was wrong with me. She helped me lose weight and understand what was going on. She focused on infertility and gave me the best treatments possible. However, she also let me know that if the doctor so long ago had pushed harder, I may have prevented scarring on my ovaries and fallopian tubes.

I went as far as we were willing to go with medical infertility. To be honest, we could have gone further, but it is exhausting. I just didn't want to do it anymore. I have no regrets that we tried, and I can't go back and change the choices that I made so long ago, but I wanted to share this to encourage others to check in with their doctor and be honest when you want another opinion.

If you are my age, do not assume that everything is ok. Our generation has had more issues with pregnancy than any before us. It is hard to deal with infertility, but watching my best friend suffer through preeclampsia was awful. As children, we were exposed to toxic levels of hormones in our milk and meat.  A majority of women are fine, but make sure. Be proactive about your health. I wish I had taken some time to put some work into that earlier.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Charley's Lesson

One of my favorite students from my first year of teaching died at the beginning of school year. He wrestled a match, won it, shook his opponents hand, waved to his Mom and collapsed while he was walking back to his bench. He was rushed to the hospital, but died in route. The cause of death was having too big of a heart. 

This was a big kid. In 8th grade he was over 6ft tall and looked a lot more like a high schooler than an 8th grader.  He made my first year of teaching better. When I had a bad day, he would leave notes of encouragement on my desk. I still have one "Miss Lomas, you are good teacher and we like you. You are funny and make me like Language Arts." As my TA he defended an autistic girl against other students who were making fun of her. He was goofy, funny and pushed himself and his peers to be the best version of themselves that they could be. If I have a son, I would be happy for him to be like Charley.

The 8th grade football team was undefeated for the first time in LCMS history that year. When I asked Charley why that was, he told me that it was all about the attitude. He liked to think to that if he went into things, even tough things, with a good attitude things would work out. In the last moments of his life, he was still living that philosophy.

No one teaches you what to do when a student dies. No one tells you how to comfort the students crying in the halls, or how to speak to his friends who come back to work in your classroom. There is no amazing message to write to two parents who have lost one of their two young sons, and no amount of preparation can get you through a funeral where boys on the brink of manhood carry the casket of one of their best friends. All you can do is remember the lessons they taught you.

Charley has been on my heart the past week. I have been thinking about how he chose to embrace life and use it as an opportunity to spread good things and not bad. His heart really was too big. When a young person with unlimited potential dies, you want to get angry at such a senseless loss, but Charley would have pointed out that God is in control and it is all about his timing.

Our social worker told us that children's social workers aren't picking us because we don't have children, or experience with children. I want to be angry about this. I want to point out that no one has experience with children before becoming parents, but we have been given a chance to get experience and help kids. We are going to be respite providers.

Respite care is taking in foster kids for a weekend to two weeks to give the foster family a break or allow for a transition. We will have our first visitors August 5th -13th, twin two year old boys. Let me say that again, twin two year old boys. My instinct is to run and say I can't, but somewhere I hear Charley's note, telling me it is all about the attitude. I am thankful for the chance to be able to show two kiddos love and happy to allow them to teach me what I need to know. It is all about the attitude.