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"God help us, it's almost summer!"

How is it possible that these children are going to be out of school in a matter of days? How?? Don’t get me wrong, I am literally dragging can to make lunches each night at this point, and thank God for the blessed teachers who have stopped giving homework because Lord knows this mama is basically over checking math facts and quizzing vocab words. But isn’t there a place that these little people can go until fall arrives again? Because quite honestly, it’s May 24th and I already want to staple all of their mouths closed.

“Shivonne, aren’t you overreacting just a bit?” some may ask.

Um, no. And go kick rocks, by the way.

So, Wyatt has taken to baby talking. Not just acting whiney, but all-out baby talking “goo goo ga ga” crap. That is, of course, when he’s not screeching at the top of his lungs like a little girl, mooing like a cow, or singing the ABCs… which I’m daily regretting having taught him. And then there’s the fact that this kid is CONSTANTLY talking about food being in my boobies and hugging my uterus with a weird kind of fondness in his eyes. This child, in his best baby talk voice, is asking if he can go BACK INTO my belly and be a baby.

Have I don’t something to traumatize him? I mean, is it possible that there is some kind of psychological damage that’s been done? Did I nurse him too long? Because honestly, what child asks to re-enter the womb? It’s creepy and disturbing… especially when he pats my chest and tells me he loves my “bellies” so much because they’re just so squishy. And then he thanks me for having them… because it was obviously my choice.

Yeah, these are things that could end any day now and I would be quite fine with it.

Cameron, on the other hand, makes me want to staple his mouth shut for multiple reasons. First of all, the kid is majorly obsessed with particular things for a few days at a time and can think of absolutely nothing else but his momentary fixation. Pokemon cards, bay blades, planting his 2x2 foot garden, fidget spinners, fit bits, geocaching… whatever the fad for that second is the only thing he will speak of for days at a time. It’s kind of like living with a redneck Kardashian, minus the nude selfies (thank you, Jesus).

Secondly, I would like to staple Cameron’s mouth shut because, for those brief moments he isn’t obsessing over things, he sits there with his mouth hanging open as if he’s trying to catch flies. He will quite literally sit like that and drool until someone tells him to close his mouth! My husband and I have affectionally labeled this “Resting Doofus Face”. (I know, we are horrible people… and yet we manage to still live with ourselves.)

My 11-year-old came home the other day and was telling me all about a girl in his class who “has the hots” for him and how they’re practically dating. I mean, I tried to be excited I guess, but really, all I could think was that this poor female child must be blind and deaf because no one could possibly be drawn to the drooling and all this obsessive prattling about boring stuff. It’s just not possible. So, until I’m proven wrong, this girl is nothing more than a figment of my son’s imagination – someone he has invented because he needed one person in his life who wouldn’t constantly nag him to close his mouth.

Then there’s Taylor. The girl child who talks incessantly about NOTHING. I cannot fathom saying so many words in a single day without having accomplished a single productive conversation. It’s incomprehensible how much she talks about back-handsprings and bracelets and her hair! Seriously, is there nothing else in her head? Is there nothing else of importance that happens on a day to day basis? Why would she think that anyone cares to hear her tell them 17 times in a row how surprised she is that her new shorter hair will still go up in a ponytail? Like, oh my gosh, right?

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I simply cannot and will not feign excitement at one more cartwheel. I just can’t. The quality of my life desperately depends on me walking away from her when she jumps for joy and wants me to do the same when she manages to flip or flop for the 274th time in a single afternoon. And it keeps her alive that I have restraint enough to walk away from her when she repetitiously states the obvious every few seconds.

“Wow, it’s raining.”

“Wow, it’s still raining.”

“Hey, did you see it rain?”

“Is it supposed to rain tomorrow?”

“I like rain.”

“Oooo, it looks like the rain may start back up again any second…or maybe just sprinkle…or it could thunderstorm…no, I bet it’ll just rain…”

This makes me want to throat punch her. She sees me working on bills or talking on the phone or choosing songs for church and THESE are the moments she talks the most about nothing. And the sad thing is, even if I gave her my undivided attention 24/7, it wouldn’t come close to being enough. So, I try to hide from her until she leaves for school each morning.

Except school is almost out! There will very soon be NO MORE hiding. There will just be minutes and hours and weeks and months of quality family time, filled with nothing but stupid talk. Babyish whines. Repetition. Drool.

I can only pray for patience so many times before all that’s within me is gonna hit the fan, so God help us all this summer. You, me, and all of these wildly loud and ridiculous children. God help us.

#TeachersAreOfficiallySaintsInMyBook

 

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A Mother's Day Reminder

Today is Mother’s Day. I have children (11 and 9) who were adopted, one foster child (4) whom we lost, and one birth child (who just turned 3 yesterday). In our house we have mental health issues, social delays, and the inability for each person to pee on the potty consistently each day. To top things off, we own a LOT of dog hair. In fact, we get so busy that I might even forget that we own the 3 dogs entirely if it weren’t for the constant reminder of hair and dander floating to and fro as we rush in and out of the door each day to get go our millions of errands and appointments.

To sum things up, our life is one of chaos.

I remember a few years back my oldest son and I were at the mall (back when we had time for such luxuries). We ran into a child from his class and Cameron was anxious to introduce me. The next day he came home from school proudly announced that his friend had a crush on me. The sense of joy this gave my son, that he could have a mom “cute enough” to be crushed on by a peer, was priceless. And I, needless to say, felt flattered.

Fast forward 3 years…

Cameron and I ran into this same peer a few months back in a church parking lot. Cameron made small talk with the boy by saying, “Hey, remember when you had a crush on my mom?” This other child then looked over at me and dismissively said, “Eh, she’s looking a little old now…”

Um, ouch?

My son felt the need to tell me this as if HIS feelings were hurt! I gave myself a quick check in my side mirror of our van as I processed the child’s words. It was then that I noticed that my hair was thrown up haphazardly and my make-up had worn off as the day had gone on. I didn’t display the same kind of attractiveness that I once had, and this was apparent to my son AND his friends. It didn’t take long before I began to second guess the state of my house, the quality of school lunches I pack for my kids, and the fact that I’m often too busy to play a game or build a fort when asked. By the time I’d returned home, I was practically in a tail spin about my inadequacies as a mother. Naturally, children finding us old and unattractive does this to a mama!

But today, as my husband and three remaining children gathered around me, doting me with cards, gifts, and handmade notes, I felt tremendously blessed. I also felt something else that surprised me greatly.

I felt adequate.

All of the things that creep into my mind throughout the days and the months, the things that point out all my flaws – those things are nothing in comparison to being the mother that MY kids need me to be. I mean, I could so easily get hung up on the fact that my weight will probably always have a 15 pound fluctuation… but if my daughter looks at me and sees a strong and confident woman, I have succeeded. I may grieve the loss of a child and show this weakness to my other children at times when the pain becomes too much to keep inside… but if they see me rise after I weep, then I have succeeded. My house may be cluttered and my legs be unshaven, but if my children observe that my time is being spent on helping the needy and loving the unlovable, then I have succeeded.

Because you see, our successes and failures are not judged by our children in the same light as we judge ourselves. Yes, they may be disappointed when we can’t play every game with them and if they get peanut butter and jelly 3 days in a row (okay, 5 days in a row) – but these things are small in comparison to our example of forgiveness when they lose their minds in tantrums every other day or when they hide their dirty clothes around their rooms instead of putting them in the hamper.

By simply being a mother who loves and disciplines and does her best for her family and her community and her God, we are being the perfect example that our children need. We are being real. And by being real, that means that we are often ragged and lumpy and worn, just like a child’s favorite stuffed toy. By being real, that means that our children see our lives and learn to set expectations of both greatness and resilience during failures, all at the same time.

When we show our children these things, whether or not we feel lovely or disheveled, all together or frazzled – we have succeeded.

Be blessed, be real, and remember that you ARE succeeding.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mamas.

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A Season to Head Bang

Sometimes I feel like I’m banging my head off a brick wall with my kids. Anyone else?? Often, I see no results, well apart from a headache. Other times I simply bang my head out of habit. Brush your teeth… Stop hiding your dirty clothes around your room… Leave your sister alone… Put the milk away… Take your meds… Stop peeing on your things… If it’s not yours, stop touching it… If you break one more toy, I’m never buying you another… Don’t forget your lunch… For God’s sake, wipe your butt! (Bang. Head. Hard.)

I say these things over and over again, not because I truly believe that my children will ever listen to my words, but because it’s my duty as a parent to say them, regardless of the outcome.  I am the teacher and the repeater and the official head banger of our household. I do these things so often that I usually run out of time to do other necessary things (laundry, grocery shopping, showering, etc). Generally, this leaves me feeling dissatisfied with my current life. Go figure, right? But honestly, if all I’m here for is to remind people to do things that they will, inevitably, not do, then what’s the point of my job as a mother?

Last week we had a group therapy session, me and the kiddos. I know with their diagnosis that I have to tread lightly when it comes to praise. If I give too much encouragement or show too much affection, the self-sabotage takes over and the tantrums will ensue. And, despite me knowing this, I praised my children during their therapy session. I was careful to do so quickly and without too much emotion, but it didn’t matter. My son arrived home and had a massive melt down. The “I hate you” train plowed through our home with a vengeance that evening, complete with screaming and slamming and all the back talk you can imagine. He even challenged The Hubs, which is quite insane because my husband is large and fairly intimidating when he scowls.

But none of this mattered to the boy. All that mattered was that I had broken the rules. I had said too much and it was his job to reestablish the chaos, leaving me to find the closest brick wall.

My daughter is much more passive in her need to rectify praise. She wants it desperately. But when she gets it, her body creates all manners of psychosomatic symptoms. She will literally develop any disease, wound, or body ache that she has seen someone else exhibit recently that got them attention. She’s my child who ends up in the nurse’s office with unsubstantiated illnesses that another classmate just had. Sadly, this week we are potty-training the toddler… therefore the way to get our attention and make the world right again was for her own bladder to regress.

She can’t help it, at least I don’t think she can. But it wouldn’t matter if she could or not. For me, it all comes down to the same thing. The fact that I am once again just hear to be the head banger.

The stress of all things concerning Isaac… the constant work I do educating others on watching for child abuse… the never-ending advocacy to get laws changed, to get social workers to do their jobs, to get people to see the horrific things happening to children all around us… it so often seems all for naught. I find myself spinning in circles all day long, only to wake up the next day and spin some more. I fight for my children, I fight with my children, and I fight the world that is harming children – day in and day out, I try to be the best that I can and follow the peculiar rules that this life needs me to follow so that my children don’t go postal on me. I try desperately to protect them and to train them and to remind them of all the good things they need to do and be. I want so much for all my children to be safe. Yet all I do is spin circles because it seems that no matter how much I try, very little changes.

The other day a female cardinal got trapped in our van while the windows were down. She frantically raced from one side of the van to the other, banging her head at every dead end. She also crapped on every surface of our freshly cleaned vehicle, but that’s another story entirely. When I went outside and saw what had happened, I tried to open the van door for this terrified bird to escape. In the meantime, her hubby tried to attack – divebombing every time I neared my van. His partner was trapped and he was frantic. He rammed himself into the glass so many times that he left bloody evidence of his efforts on each window.

Yet it wasn’t until after I got the door opened and both birds were free that I noticed that they have a nest in the tree above our van. These birds aren’t just partners, they are parents.

From that day on, these birds have guarded their nest with a vengeance. Our cars are constantly under attack and we, the owner of a Chrysler Town and County bird cage, are also a threat and are treated as such. From what I’ve read about cardinals, they are incredibly territorial and aggressive towards trespassers. I also read that they are amazing parents because they will go to any means necessary to care for their young.

This includes banging their heads off car windows and squawking wildly all day, every day.

Sound familiar?

We, the head bangers and circle spinners, we are not alone in our daily battle to protect our children. We may repeat endless efforts to ensure their safety and well-being and it may seem like nothing is ever changing… that we’re beating on the same glass of the same van each and every day.

But do you know what else I found while reading about cardinals? That they are often seen as a sign of Hope. That, after a long, bleak winter, the first sign of those bold, red feathers lets the rest of creation know that spring has arrived – that change is coming.

That there is hope for something more.

And sometimes that means a season of banging our heads and squawking loudly each and every day. But it is just that… a season. And in the end, our young will know that we did all we could to protect them and to set them on the best path possible. Because for everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. We will not spin circles forever, friends. It’s just our time to remind all around us of the Hope that has arrived.

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The Toddler, The Terror

So, I have this toddler. He will be 3 next month. And from what I’m told, 3 is a million times worse than 2 – it is, in a sense 2 perfected. Friends, this a thought that sends chills down my spine. Because I gotta tell ya, 2 has basically sucked eggs. Don’t believe me? Just read it for yourself!

Potty Training

This kid does NOT want to stop peeing in his diaper. Like, not at all. Putting my child on the toilet either leads to screaming bloody murder, flushing the toilet 27 times, or giving himself an erection – making it virtually impossible to pee anyhow. In fact, this child arouses himself basically every time his diaper comes unhooked! Now, whereas I try to discourage this behavior without shaming him, part of me wants to scream, “YOU’RE GOING TO YANK IT OFF AND PEOPLE ARE GOING TO THINK I’M A BAD MOTHER!!!!”

But instead, my kid sits there, beaming proudly at his accomplishment of making his weenie big, saying things like, “Mama! I DID it! That’s the biggest butt I ever seen!” (Because we still call our weenie a butt. Obviously, I’m going to have to homeschool my child because we are never going to be ready for kindergarten at this rate. I mean, yesterday I caught him eating a dead fly… come on!)

This week, however, I developed a Paw Patrol sticker chart. Each time he pees on the big boy potty, he gets a sticker on the chart. If he poops, he gets 2 stickers and a parade in his honor. Once each row is filled up with stickers representing his bathroom escapades, he gets candy… and yes, I am bribing my child with copious amounts of sugar. Judge me if you will, but it’s better than constant masturbation in my eyes, so your judgments mean nothing. Just saying.

We’ve had a decent amount of success with the sticker chart, although he gets awfully irrational when I don’t give him a sticker every time someone else in the house uses the restroom. After all, this isn’t a joint effort here! It’s certainly not worth the tantrums that ensue. Speaking of which…

Tantrums

Last week I missed half of my grandmother’s funeral because I had to remove my screaming/hitting/kicking son from the funeral home and literally drag him outside to the back of the building (using emergency exits that thankfully didn’t sound any alarms when I opened them). There I sat on the damp concrete in my black dress, showing all kinds of granny panty, as my kid threw rocks and screamed at the top of his lungs every time I looked in his direction. I wept like the worn-out mother that I am, silently cursing the child that I GAVE BIRTH TO and his erratic behavior that came from me. My other kids that I adopted? I don’t have to take ownership for their issues… but this kid is all mine from the DNA to the horrid behavior.

I felt like a failure for the billionth time that day.

Especially when the casket delivery man arrived and informed me that our hysterics were blocking his path to the storage room. I looked at him with racoon-smeared eyes and picked up my flailing child, trying to walk to a new location as my high heel broke underneath the weight of the two of us.

Later that day I threw my shoes away.  We repeated our tantrums and disciplines again and again for days and days – in restaurants, at the funeral luncheon, in the car, and in the house. I’m learning to view this new routine my son and I are in like I would a wild horse. We are constantly trying to break the stallion’s crazed spirit so that he can become an animal capable of fitting in with the rest of the tamed herd that is society.

It’s just not working. Yet. Which leads me to the horribleness that is the final toddler topic for today’s post…

Nap Inconsistencies

As if dealing with the little maniac all day isn’t hard enough, my child is starting to break free of his previously consistent nap schedule. THIS, my friends, may be the death of me. Because after hours of cycling this boy on and off the potty, correcting tantrums, and cleaning up the giant-sized toddler messes that he leaves in his wake, this mama is READY for naptime! That was the deal. He can act like a colossal turd for some of the day if he must, but that means I get a couple hours of reprieve in the afternoon. But now, my son is struggling to hold up his end of the bargain and I find myself crying hysterically by dinner time.

My older kids are so frightened of my hazzardness that they don’t question me when I pack lunches that consist of 3 jellos and a peanut butterless PB&J sandwich. They see the crazy unfolding before their very eyes and I believe they pity me. But if we’re looking for silver linings, they have both informed me within the last week that they will never have sex because they are scared of having children.

So there’s a parenting win.

But seriously, this child is making my brain homicidal. I mean, I am walking around like a full-fledged Lewis Black impersonator all day long, grunting out strings of nonsensical words with barely a breath to speak them.

And then, minutes later, this same kid comes up to me and tells me he loves me so much. And then we load up his dump trucks with all his farm animals and pretend to take them to the jungle… until his toy crocodile comes along and destroys all the animals and fake-chomps the truck to bits. And for some reason, this makes my son very happy and cuddly. So, we sit and hunker down in a good snuggle amidst the carnage that was his plastic livestock.

In the moment, these day to day things feel so stinking insurmountable. This stage feels like it will last forever. And I know in my heart of hearts that it won’t. But if you say that to me, I’m liable to bite your head off, cry, and then apologize (you’ve been forewarned). I know deep down that my children will all grow up and be somewhat functional in society, hopefully potty-trained, and I will no longer have the need to make crocodile sounds.

I’m told this will be a sad day. We’ll see. Either way, this moment will pass. In the meantime, I will continue to talk my brain off the ledge of insanity each day, being as consistent as possible, and attempt to be more mindful while packing lunches for the big ones. Sometimes Hope means believing that one day, life may just be boring.

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It's a Book Launch!

     So, this week has FINALLY arrived! And I want to cordially invite all of you to the launch and first signing of my new book, The Children Who Raised Me. (Insert all manner of joyous sounds here!) Come and join me for some light refreshments, a brief reading, and time to chat with the author! I will be signing books as well and will have a limited number for purchase if you haven't already bought yours (books are $20). This is a family friendly event, so feel free to bring your friends, family, and random people from the street (as long as they agree - no abductions, please).

WHEN:  Saturday, April 8th, 2017 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm

WHERE: The 1st Baptist Church of Ellwood City (220 Fountain Ave. Ellwood City, PA 16117)

     Additionally, if you're interested in having me come speak at your church, agency, school, or group - contact me HERE to schedule! I love to share information on Adoption, Foster Care, Mental Health, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and ways to improve our Child Welfare Systems.

     See you all Saturday!!!

     XOXO,

     Shivonne

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