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?