Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Time to Dance

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They say that into every life a little rain must fall.  For my Mom, it rained for a bunch of years, as she watched my Dad slowly slip away from her.  She stood by his side through endless treatments, doctor visits, and strings of bad news.  She loved him through the days when medication clouded his personality and judgement.  She finally said goodbye with her head on his shoulder.

But for anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one, we know that the pain doesn’t end there.  It is just beginning.  As she adjusted to life without Dad, she spent many days and evenings alone, missing her best friend.  He had been her life for 50 years.  She had followed him everywhere, and supported him in everything.  They were inseparable.

Sooner or later in life, grief finds all of us.  It’s part of the business of living life.  Everyone handles it in different ways, but here’s my opinion on grief:

Own it.  Sit in that room called “grief”. Experience it and do what you need to do to express it.

But don’t live there.  Eventually it is time to get up and start walking.  As you keep moving, keep living, keep expressing kindness, keep focusing on what is still here, you walk out of the grief room and into a place where the memories can be reflected upon with fondness and sometimes sadness, but without the aching grief.  But to get there you have to eventually get up and keep moving.

My Mom has found her own way to continue on.

I am so proud of her for that.

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A Million Things to Say

Four years ago today, after one last “I love you,” to my Mom, Dad left a hospital bed in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland and headed Home.  He had fought for about 5 years against cancer and all that went along with it, but finally let go on April 23, 2009.  (To see some of the things that I’ve learned from my Dad, see my earlier post.)

Even though Dad spent years as a pastor, he wasn’t one to talk much.  He usually reserved his words for the right moment.  His thought was, “Better to be silent and have people think you’re a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.”  So when I would call my parents in Newfoundland, I would chat with my mother (which is not a challenge at all), but then she would ask if I wanted to speak to Dad.  I would say yes, but often it was hard to think of things to say that we would have in common.  He was always interested how the weather was in Ottawa, whether I was still driving that old Subaru, and if I really should have that thing on the road in that weather.  Talking on the phone was not his thing, and neither was idle conversation.

I used to find it hard sometimes to talk to him on the phone, even though I loved him a lot.  He was the best Dad ever.  Hands down.  But talking to him on the phone was difficult sometimes.  He would chat for a few minutes and then say, “Here’s your mother.”

Funny,  today I would have a million things to say to my Dad.

I would have told him that he was the best Dad ever.  Every time.   I would show him pictures of the kids and tell him all the funny things they did.  I would talk about Jesus more.  I would get his opinion on every option for every car that I might ever consider.  I would tell him about our new house and the neighborhood we live in.  I would talk about work and get advice on every decision.   I would tell him how cute Dan’s little baby girl turned out to be.  I would thank him for all the times he lent me his car.  I would tell him that the only reason I have a good husband is because I had a high standard set for me.  I would tell him that I love him every day, no matter what.  I would tell him that everything worked out for me after all.

I know what he would do.  He’d give his advice, but not a whole lot more fluff.  He would say enough so that I knew he was there for me and that if the world fell apart, I can always come live there.

I don’t wish him back here.  This place is pretty stinky in comparison.  I would rather him be where he is than suffering for another minute.  So, in honor of everything that my Dad showed me about resilience, I am choosing to move forward in life without him.  “Life is for the living,” is what I always say.  God had some reason beyond what I understand, and he was not meant to be here for this time.  I am thankful that he is not a person who lives on in memory and legacy, but that he lives on in a new Home.  One day I will see him again, and he’ll have an eternity to sit down and hear the million things I have to say.

My New Name

When you are in the process of home visits prior to adoption placement, you are instructed not to call yourself Mom or Dad until everything is final.  Not wanting to step outside of the rules, we tried to ensure that the children knew that we were Clive and Shelley until they were officially “ours”.  On the first weekend, the boys were quick to begin asking, “When can we call you Mom and Dad?”

Kaitlyn, however, was not.  She has not called us that for the past two years, unless she was referring to us in third-person.  For some reason, the words could not roll off her tongue like it did for the boys.  Two years down the road, she has begun to call us Mommy and Daddy, just in the past two weeks.  Why the transition happened is a mystery to us, locked inside a ten year-old girl’s mind and heart.

Today I volunteered to drive the Broncos Girls Bordenball Team (yeah, I don’t know what bordenball is either) to a tournament.  With 5 chatty little girls in the van, I hear a voice come from the back seat.  “Mommy, can I borrow your iPhone?”

Now, to any other mother, that would have been just a request.  To others, that would have been her ten-year-old asking for her phone yet again.  To me, it was MY little girl, in the back seat, comfy with her new life, asking her MOMMY for something like all the other girls in the van would do.  We were just a normal family.

Some in the field of adoption placement would advise that children should not be forced to call their parents Mom and Dad.  It should be their choice, they say.  I did not agree with that philosophy.  I felt that they should be TOLD to call us by our title, so that they feel that we are who we are, and it avoids the awkwardness of people asking, “Why do you call your mom Shelley? Isn’t she your real Mom?”  It would solidify something between us, perhaps.  I hated not being called Mom, when the title was reserved for someone who was not present in this little girl’s life.  

But I was wrong.

The lady who was “not present” was very much present.  As much as I wish this little girl had always been with me, that I was the one who raised her from birth, that I was the one who had taught her to walk and talk and be who she is, I am not.  “Mom” was someone else for eight and a half years.  The lady who did all of those things still exists out there in the world, and has a strong tie in this little girl’s heart.  She is a part of who this little girl is, and that will always be.

My sweet husband, who is right an inordinate amount of times in our parenting debates, advised that we should just “wait it out”.  She would eventually call us Mom and Dad on her own.  He’s patient.  I’m not.  It annoyed me to feel like her big sister or caregiver, and not her mother.

Suddenly out of left-field, she just started calling me either of “Mom”, “Mommy” or “Mama”.  All the time.  There was no discussion or decision moment, just a change.  

I have no idea what changed to make her suddenly feel like bestowing that title on me.  All I know is that now I am Mom and my daughter chose that name for me. 

Oh, and the Broncos took home silver.  Go Broncos!

Forgotten lunches

Yesterday morning was not my most stellar Mommy morning.  I like to think that in the last two years of being a mommy that I have come up with a system for doing mornings.  I have a list that I follow in my head, which must be followed correctly in order to not throw off the rhythm of the entire day.

Yesterday I got up at 6:30 as per usual, and set out to attempt to be stellar once again.  I got everyone up, got their breakfast, got them dressed, teeth were brushed and cool hairstyles were coiffed.  All was well, and I was patting myself on the back as I raced them to get their shoes on to catch the bus, which was whizzing past to go to the stop.  There was still time to meet it.

Then I realize that I had not made lunches.  In the flurry of the morning, Kaitlyn had asked me to get her something from the basement, and I had been thrown off my rhythm.  I had totally forgotten that I was in the midst of lunch prep and had carried on with everything else.  

So, as I often do, I started to kick myself in the pants.  “Why can’t I be like those other normal mothers who get everyone out the door with a healthy lunch?  Am I ever going to get this right?”

I kept the boys with me while I finished the lunches and the bus whizzed away.  I gathered them into the van and sped off to school to send them to their teachers.  At least they were getting to school on time, lunches in hand.  Maybe tomorrow I will get it right.

Then it happened.  Daniel, the 5 year old, latched onto my leg.  “Nope,” he said.

“Nope what?”  I asked him.

“Nope.  Not leaving.”

“Well, Dan, I have to go to a meeting.  I need to go home and get ready.”

“Nope.  I’m coming too.  I don’t yont to go to school.”  Then he proceeded to throw an absolute tantrum, throwing himself onto the ground and going limp like a dead fish whenever I or the teacher tried to pick him up.  Eventually the teacher had to pry him off of me and take him, kicking and screaming, into the school.  It was quite a scene.

As I walked away, hearing the sound of “MAAAAA MAAAAA!!! Don’t YEEEEVVVE!!” it occurred to me that perhaps I was getting something right after all. 

For parents of biological children, a child pulling a stunt like that causes concern that they have separation anxiety.  For someone like me, it gives me comfort to know that the boy has formed an attachment, and sincerely feels a bond with his mommy.  Even though he is freaking out, he knows that when the day is over, Mommy will be at home making supper and handing out kisses for free.  

So the morning didn’t work out so well.

So I had to make an extra trip to the school.

But I felt like a Mommy, and a pretty normal one too.

Things I Learned From my Dad

  1. Remember where you came from and don’t be ashamed of it.
  2. Don’t rely on men to bait your hook for you.  Do it yourself.
  3. Everyone should be at least a half an hour early for church.
  4. I am the best fisher-person ever.
  5. I’m the “best girl in Ottawa”.
  6. When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, He baptized ALL of them, not just one.  (I could never get that song right.)
  7. When you stop at a red light, the car in front of you should look like its wheels are resting on the hood of your car.  That way you know you’re not too close.
  8. I am a good parallel-parker.
  9. I am one of the few people on the road who checks their blind spot.
  10. Squeezing out an “I Love You” at the last second of your life is worth a thousand words.
  11. Cancer can take a body, but not a legacy.
  12. You don’t always need lessons to play music.  A beat-up old guitar and a few chords will do.
  13. Any song can be played with just 3 chords.
  14. Bill Gaither should be sainted.
  15. Just because you might not be published or well-known, doesn’t mean you didn’t change the world in your own way.
  16. There’s nobody more important than family.
  17. No matter what the circumstance, hanging your false teeth out of your mouth will make the kids laugh.
  18. I’m just as good as everyone else.
  19. “That’s nothin, m’luvvy.  You’re alright.”
  20. Remember that if the bottom falls out, you can always come home.

my first 52 weeks

On May 24, 2011, my husband and I became the proud parents of 3 beautiful kids, who entered our home and promptly set about turning our lives upside-down.  There is no end to the number of things that I have learned and continue to learn through the process, but here is what I wrote at the one-year mark, May 24, 2012.

52 THINGS I HAVE LEARNED IN 52 WEEKS OF BEING A MOM:

  1. The Bible is fascinating.  There is no book more interesting.
  2. Sleeping in is highly overrated.
  3. Kraft Dinner is a food group.
  4. If you cut wieners just the right way and boil them in water you can make them look like an octopus sitting in someone’s Kraft Dinner.
  5. Mr. Clean should get a ticket to Heaven for inventing the Magic Eraser.
  6. Silly Putty is from the Devil.
  7. Rubbing alcohol will remove Silly Putty that has gone through the dryer in someone’s pocket.
  8. Children will put anything in their pockets.
  9. Orange crayons in the dryer are a big sloppy mess of hopelessness.  Just learn to like wearing orange.
  10. I never really knew what yove was before.
  11. They tell you that when you adopt kids, you can’t expect that love will fix everything.  We have learned that when it comes to kids, love can fix anything.
  12. “If you are good in school you get to use the computer,” works way better than, “If you are bad in school you can’t use the computer.”
  13. There is something about bread crusts that is extremely repulsive to children which no one has ever been able to define.
  14. Never serve rice to a 4 year old on the same day that you cleaned the floor.
  15. Any veggie can be put in a food processor and then hidden in spaghetti sauce.
  16. Kids will eat fish if you allow them to assume it’s chicken that smells different.  Just excuse yourself from the table when asked for specifics.
  17. If you don’t like the way your 9-year-old daughter is acting, wait 5 minutes.
  18. You must intentionally put your children in the path of Jesus.
  19. You must intentionally put your children in the path of other kids who love Jesus.
  20. Always keep your head up when playing hockey with a 6 year old boy.
  21. Keep ice packs in the freezer for hockey games.
  22. The word, “Mom” can be stretched into a 3-syllable word when it is followed by a request.
  23. Go to every school assembly that allows parents in.  Someone will invariably check if you’re there.
  24. Never underestimate the power of a wave from the audience during a school performance.
  25. Bring tissues to every performance.
  26. Children attract other children.  Make sure you do a head count on days off from school in case there are extras.
  27. You can get a lot of free stuff if you have a cute little boy wearing glasses standing next to you.
  28. When children come into your life, you suddenly become aware of the pervasiveness of peanuts.
  29. Don’t get embarrassed if other moms see your kid having a tantrum.  Usually they are saying to themselves, “Phew, it’s not my kid this time.”
  30. When you buy new jeans for a little boy, immediately iron patches on the inside of the knees.
  31. It’s not enough to just pray for your children every day.  You must show them how to pray.  Jesus taught His kids to pray.
  32. Milk mixed with kids’ cereal which has been left in a bowl all day is the most powerful adhesive known to man. Just throw out the bowl to save time.
  33. It would be smart to buy shares in the company that makes Polysporin.
  34. The person who invented DVD players that go in vans should win the Nobel Peace Prize.
  35. I sound like my mother when I’m talking to kids.
  36. My mother was way smarter than I gave her credit for.
  37. I should have listened when my mother was teaching me to sew.
  38. When a 4 year old boy says to a 6 year old boy, “I have a good idea…” the phrase is rarely followed by a good idea.
  39. Children will not implode if you don’t have cable.
  40. Kids really don’t need to know the difference between a smoothie and a milkshake.
  41. Silliness and play are a child’s full-time job.
  42. Love, patience, consistency and follow-through work way better than a whack on the butt.
  43. It is important to force that scream on the inside to come out as a soft rebuke.
  44. When purchasing beds for little boys, it is helpful to stand on the headboard and launch yourself off.  This is not a test of durability.  Rather, it is a test of usefulness.
  45. If you install a ceiling fan in the bedroom of 2 little boys they will look up and see a mechanism for propulsion.
  46. Always go check what’s happening if things are quiet.
  47. Any long object can double as a hockey stick or sword, depending on which weapon is needed at the moment.
  48. Children attract dirt.  Dirt attracts children.  “Without oxen a stable stays clean.” Proverbs 14:4
  49. We must teach children that church is a second home full of love and acceptance, and we must be a part of making church that kind of place.
  50. It’s important to kiss Daddy in front of the kids, even if it makes them gag and roll their eyes.
  51. Show your kids that you love Jesus more than them, and that Jesus loves them more than you do.
  52. It doesn’t matter if your kids look like you.  The most important thing is that your kids look like Jesus.

So Now I’m a Blogger

I have avoided it until now. I like to think of myself as a person who does not do something just because everyone else is doing it. So, I bucked the trend of starting a blog for a long time, but now I have realized the benefits. I really wish I had blogged each day from when our kids first entered our household. Sometimes I have interesting things go through my head (I said, “sometimes”) and should share them, or at least hold onto them somewhere.

So, I have become a blogger. Let’s see how this goes.