Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My baby is 4!

     It's amazing that something as simple as a birthday can make me stop and remember. If my baby is turning 4, then 4 years ago I had my open heart surgery. We've been through so many changes since then.
     As I watch her, it is even more clear to me that she is no longer my baby. She speaks and communicates quite clearly. She has her own feelings, desires, and opinions. I can still sway her, but not as much as I could in the past.
     I look at her dance around the living room and I think that maybe that is what "made in God's image" is, not the broken down adult body, but the perfect body of a small child, healthy and strong, and somehow beautiful. Or maybe this is how He looks at us, with so much love in His eyes that He, too, sees a beautiful, dancing child.
     As her birthday approached we discussed the fact that she is no longer a baby. But, we've been having this conversation since she was 2 years old and giving up her binky, so I didn't think it was much of an impacting talk. During the day of her birthday I kept thinking I saw something different in her. Did she grow? Was she holding her head higher? Was she walking with more purpose?
     That evening  she asked me if she could go out to the garage with Daddy instead of watch a movie. My child LOVES to watch movies, but I figured maybe she just needed some Daddy time. For the next hour or so I watched her come in following Daddy, or deliver something that he had found in a box he was unpacking. She was a woman on a mission.
     After the kids were in bed I asked Hubby what she wanted to go to the garage for. He said, "I think she just wanted to talk." (WHAT?! I'm the mommy! Why didn't she need to talk to me?)  So I nonchalantly asked, "oh? about what?" "Oh just stuff" was his response. (UGH! First she wants to go confide in Daddy and now Daddy is keeping it confidential!) With a bit of prodding he said, "well, she told me that she's 4 now, and she's not a baby, and she's going to act more grown up, that sort of thing".
     I find myself having all of these feelings.
     First of all, wow, how amazing that my little girl is verbalizing, "I'm not a baby, I'm going to act more grown up". Secondly, as much as it pains me, I am glad that my little girl sees her daddy as her confidante, after all, girls who have good relationships with their daddies are way less likely to get into trouble. But, mostly, I am amazed that not only has she verbalized to her father that she is going to change her ways, but I have SEEN a change in her! AND I had seen the change before I found out about the conversation and have continued to see it since then.
     If there is an "age of accountability", does that mean she's reached it? Or is getting close to it? She's older now than when I gave my life to Christ, but, I look at her and I see a small child. Yet, I see a child who is wise beyond her years.
     My heart swells with love as I watch this baby, now little girl, soon to be young lady, grow. I am so thankful that God allowed the doctors to patch me up so that I could be involved in her life. I'm also appreciative that I can finally stay with her during the day, rather than leaving her with someone while I work. I hope and pray that I can raise her in a way that is honoring to Christ.
     I can also look back now and see the things that I was so worried about, or researched so much, that really are meaningless. The kind of bottle she used, to use a walker or an exer-saucer, organic baby food or normal, did any of those things really make a difference? I suppose they play a small part in who she is, but I think God has taught me that a parent who consciously makes decisions to create a home for a child is more important.
All in all I would say that Christ has blessed us with a beautiful, smart child, and I am happy that I've been able to enjoy this crazy thing called parenting.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Whirlwind of Emotions

This past week and a half has been FULL. It marks the one year anniversary of my father's in law death. He was hospitalized for a routine gallbladder infection and become progressively more ill until he was send home to hospice; except he waited to go until he was in his driveway, so he wasn't actually home, nor was he actually in the care of the hospital. Leave it to him to do things his own way!
Anyway, since he is a veteran and his family is buried at Fort Rosecrans in California we had to wait until this year to do the veteran's memorial service there. At the same time we had a whole family vacation with all of Dad's kids, spouses, and grandkids, some of whom he had not met.
Since the boys had never met Papa, we decided to use Respite care for them. Respite care is when another foster family takes them into their home for a predetermined amount of time. We dropped them off at preschool on Thursday and then left for San Diego.
After three kids, caring for one seemed like a breeze! It was easy to navigate potty stops and lunch breaks and by Thursday evening we were at the hotel. Friday morning was the memorial service, followed by some time at the beach. I found myself truly starting to relax. I was able to take pictures and videos without fear of who I was catching in the scene. I was able to focus my attention on my darling, baby girl. What a cutie she is!
Saturday we went to Sea World. We rented a double stroller for my girl and a cousin and off we went to tackle the park. She truly had fun, and so did I. After lunch we went back to the hotel for a nap, and I slept, hard as a rock. It was around this time I started feeling guilty. Shouldn't I miss my boys a little more? I DID miss them but Why was I ecstatic about how easy it is to care for one child? Did I get so caught up in wanting to have a family that I tried to force it? But we felt that God had clearly told us to go forward in this... But life would be so much easier if we only had our one child. And we could give her so much more. More time, more resources, more space. But then she would be lonely...
Sunday we spent the day traveling back home. I continued contemplating this. Just weeks ago I was so sure that I wanted these boys in our family forever and now I sat wondering. Monday is a day that they normally go to preschool and then are picked up and taken for a family visit and then returned to our home, so we would not see them until Monday evening.
Monday my sister in law and I went to Las Vegas to do some shopping. By the time we returned the kids were all sleeping. Tuesday morning was a pretty normal morning. I got extra hugs and kisses from the boys and my heart welled up with love for them. We had a pretty typical day, but it was sooo loud! Is it loud because they are boys? Because there are now four kids instead of two? Because there is not a lot of sound deadening items in our house yet?
Wednesday I babysat a 5 year old and a 1 year old, both boys. My boys were again at preschool and then a visit. The day went quite smoothly. Why did it seem to be smoother with these boys than mine? Because they are foster kids? Because all three kids are within 26 months of each other and this was a wider spread? Do we really want to continue doing this?
At one point I have a private conversation with my daughter- Do you like having your brothers here? Do you want them to stay or leave? Her answer, "I like having them here, I like to play with them, but sometimes I want them to leave cuz they bug me." Huh. "Well," I tell her, "that is how most people feel about their brothers and sisters." And I know this is true.
During the Tuesday to Thursday time frame, the parents in law of my sister in law were also in town visiting. Since they are "outsiders" there was some added stress. Thursday I put both boys in preschool, though the younger normally stays home, I was emotionally exhausted and needed a break. And take a break I did! So much so that my sis in law asked me at 5 when I needed to get the boys and I realized that I had completely zoned that part out! More guilt.
We had a family dinner at Grandma's, something that has not been a frequent occurrence. I realized on the way to get the boys that Grandma's house is an oasis of girl friendly everything, but nothing that is boy friendly, no wonder they want to touch everything! So, I stopped off and got a few boy toys to stay at Grandma's. I think that helped a little. But, the in-laws of the in-laws were still there so it was still a bit tense. We managed to do some fun stuff with all 4 kids and then I carted them home. As I was feeling frustrated with my emotions I told the kids The Plan. "When we get home, you are going to take off your shoes, go potty, put on a pull-up, put on pajamas, and head for your bed." I did this in hopes that they would follow the plan, but not really expecting them to. Wouldn't you know, MrBrawn immediately followed the plan exactly, while MsBrains
Friday we had a portrait appointment planned. Originally we thought it would be neat to have all the kids involved, but the thought of 4 kids age 4 and under in that tiny studio made me break into a sweat so I made arrangements for them to spend a little extra time at preschool. I was now at the point of thinking, "We need to just quit being foster parents and focus on the one child that God has given us."
It was after dark when I picked them up and as we drove home MsBrains said, "now let me tell you the plan". MrBrawn said, "I know the plan, take off our shoes, go potty, put on a pull up, put on pajamas, and go to bed." My heart swelled with pride! Again HE was the one to successfully follow the plan while she was a stinker every step of the way.
We woke up on Saturday morning and his obedience dumbfounded me, while her stubbornness frustrated me. Maybe it's not because they are foster kids? Maybe it's all age appropriate? After all, last summer while family was in town I forgot about her while she was at day care. And I've resented her for making life a little harder. So, am I feeling normal feeling for a mother of three small kids?
I think that is the conclusion that I have come to. Yes, it was nice to have just the one while we went to San Diego. I think it was also quite appropriate since they were not in the family during that part of our life. Yes, three kids so close in age is difficult, but this is only a stage. Before I blink they will be one more year older (depending on how long the boys stay with us). We will continue to train them to behave appropriately, now not just for our home but for more venues. We may attempt to visit Grandma once in a while and train them what is acceptable there. And, while they are having their family visits, I will make sure to take some time out for my own biological family. I think that this will allow us to have the "best of both worlds". At least for now.