Friday, June 21, 2013

His Mercies Are New Everyday

Motherhood is a whirlwind. Most days I feel (and probably look) like a total mess. On any given day, I may or may not have gone to work with my hair unwashed and most likely in a ponytail, might have forgotten to put on makeup and once I even forgot to brush my teeth. We may or may not have overslept today, had 15 minutes to get ready, had to change pants as we were walking out the door because I remembered it was water day at school and he needed a swimsuit on instead and he might have had a Kraft single for breakfast in the car and part of a smoothie drink that spilled all over his shirt and had to change into a new one in the school parking lot. All hypothetical, of course (or not).

Yes, on any given day, you may find me standing there with this "whoa, what just happened?" look on my face. When you look at the photos and videos of my child from 6 or 7 months ago and compare them with those taken this week - you might see a little glimpse of why it feels like a whirlwind. My child is growing and developing at rapid speed. I was also inducted into motherhood by starting right out with a toddler. If that doesn't throw you into a cyclone of change, I don't know what will. Most days, my house is a mess with a pile of dishes in the sink, laundry thrown on the floor waiting to be done and discarded clothing, shoes, toys and various other items trailing all through the house. The old me who was totally OCD about keeping things picked up and orderly is nowhere to be found and I'm ok with that.



The me who thought I would totally rock as a mom is also nowhere to be found. All those years of babysitting like every single weekend seems to have done nothing whatsoever to actually prepare me for real life parenthood. In my mind as I pictured it - I pictured trips to the park and zoo and lots of laughing and hugging and silliness together. I pictured kissing foreheads at night and tucking a calm, sweet little one into bed, saying prayers together and him falling fast asleep after saying "mommy, I love you" and smiling at me. Thank the Lord above - those things HAVE actually happened and those sweet little moments are worth the other 8 out of 10 other days when it doesn't happen that way at all. Real life kind of reminds me of the Griswold family vacations where Clark has this family bonding picture in his head and then all goes haywire. Where my 4 year old two nights ago literally throws a tantrum for over 2 hours about like 10 different things that could all easily make this blog list had I actually taken a picture of the crying fits he was throwing.

By the way - that link... that blog... those pictures - one of my favorite things in the whole world right now because I totally relate. I laugh so hard I'm crying everytime I look at those pictures and those reasons kids are crying - it's for real - it's the age - they do that. I've seen it. I can't even count how many times I've seen Mihretu lose it over the silliest things... like him asking me to help him get the top off his water cup and then when I do help - he swats my hand and starts screaming at me saying "me do it". You either laugh or you'll cry in those moments because it just makes no sense. I try so hard to be consistent because I know that's so important in discipline. But man, it's hard to figure out what to even say or do in some of these moments where there's no rhyme or reason to the madness. He yells louder when I try to talk to him about it when he's upset. The only thing that kind of works is time out and just backing away while he gets it all out and letting him calm himself down. Then I can talk to him - AFTER he calms down. Unless it's like the other night when as soon as that fit was done, he was immediately crying about something different. He asked for snack and chose popcorn and I went and got it and by the time I sat the bowl in front of him - he started kicking and yelling that he wanted to pour the popcorn into the bowl himself. "Well, no sir - you do not get to do it when you ask like that! Besides, you didn't tell me you wanted to do it - you asked for popcorn and I got it for you. You need to calm down or I'm taking the popcorn away." He proceed to hit the bowl and knock popcorn all over and I followed through and took the popcorn away completely. Later when he finally did calm down and said he wanted a snack - popcorn was not on the list of choices. "You lost that choice earlier buddy." I gave him a few other appealing choices and that helped keep him from another meltdown about not getting to have popcorn at all. We made it through that night, went to bed earlier than usual and praise the Lord - the next night was 190,000 times better!!! All I can say is- thank God His mercies are new every morning cause there are some days, like the other night, when it feels like 3 hours is 24 hours and you're never going to get through. But somehow you do and I just kept saying to myself - this will pass - tomorrow is a new day - God's mercies are new every morning! I think it's pretty neat of God to give me a child whose name means Mercy in Amharic. I knew there were many reasons I didn't change his name. That right there might be the best one!!!

Other things about motherhood I didn't expect - sleeping a lot but always feeling tired. Or not sleeping through the night with a child this age (he won't fall asleep without me and once I do slip out - he wakes up almost every night and comes in to my room to climb in with me). He likes to run off so if we go someplace where we have to be outside near a busy street - I get stressed out cause I'm afraid he'll run off. Half the time, I end up carrying him cause it's faster and I know he won't run off but he's like 35 lbs and it's hot out this time of year so I end up super sweaty and feeling like I'm having hot flashes. My goodness. I told you I'm a mess. A hot mess:) ha ha When we go places, especially someone's house that doesn't have kids - I can't relax at all. I'm constantly worried he'll get into something dangerous or break something. I see other moms watch their kids out of the corner of their eye while they have an adult conversation and I wonder how they are doing it. Unless my child is at school or in Sunday school class or just in general - not with me at all - I cannot have a conversation with anyone for more than like 2 seconds. So if you try to have a convo with me and I am barely paying attention or just walk away in the middle of it - that's why. I'm watching my child like a hawk. Just call me momma hawk:) So yeah, at houses without kids - there's all these little glass bottles and knick knacks for decoration that little man of course wants to touch and admire - those are the things he notices and gravitates toward. At gatherings, I worry way too much about how other people in the room will respond to my child - like wondering if they are annoyed that he's being too noisy or too hyper or whatever. What I really want to know is why I even care? I mean, I don't want to be rude or let my child wreak havoc with no concern for those around us but... I think I need to find a better balance of letting kids be kids and not automatically assuming everyone in the room is unhappy about it. I was never unhappy about kids being kids when I wasn't a mom yet. I don't know why I assume other people will be. And even if they are - why is that my responsibility to worry about their reactions? It's not. So why are these the things that go through my head at gatherings? Am I the only one or are other moms experiencing this too? I'm getting better at it and getting more and more at ease but I know I still have a LONG way to go.

I guess all I really want to say in this blog post is that I don't have it all together. I suspect a lot of moms feel this way. And for those that don't - someday I hope to be there - to feel like I have a better grasp on this world of motherhood and not worry that every day I'm going to mess my child up for life because of how I did or didn't respond in every moment. For all of us overwhelmed moms out there - we just have to take it one day, one moment at a time and cherish those sweet moments, ask for God's grace and mercy in the hard ones and take lots of slow, deep breaths. We can do this. We might not (surely will not) be perfect at it. But God is teaching us and walking with us in it. And perhaps parenthood is the one place in life where we really get to experience His mercy because we really can't do it on our own nor pretend to be able to.

For all of us parents out there, just remember this:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Great Blessing & Great Loss

Over the past week, I've been thinking a lot about how great blessings can often involve great loss.

What got me thinking about loss is the fact that I've been preparing to say goodbye to my sweet Auty girl.

That goodbye happened last night. That goodbye brought on sobbing barely can breath tears for pretty much the entire day at work once I got the email and realized it was happening that evening. I was pretty much useless at work yesterday. I left work at 3 to go get Mihretu so he could go home and say goodbye to her. His Auntie Merrill offered to come get him after he said his goodbyes so I could take her for the surrender by myself and therefore not lose it in front of M. That was a great plan. He said his goodbyes so he wasn't coming home to a house without Auty without prior knowledge - although he still keeps asking where she is. But he had something fun to focus on cause he loves his Auntie. And I got to have some time to grieve at home by myself after she was gone. It felt really weird in our house last night. It felt really weird this morning to not jump right out of bed and let her out. First thing M said when he woke up was "where's Auty?" and I reminded him again that she went to live with a new family who would give her lots of exercise and love. I held it together in front of M for the most part - no sobbing at least. But he definitely saw a few tears. Like last night after he went potty - he looked at me and pointed to the toilet seat to ask if he needed to put it down like usual. I paused and said "Well, I guess it doesn't matter. Auty isn't here to drink out of it so it's ok to leave it open if you want." And I just started to cry. He said "Mommy sad? Mommy crying?" and I said "Yeah buddy, I love Auty and I'm going to miss her. It's ok to be sad and ok to cry. Auty is going to be ok and so will we. But sometimes things still make us sad and that's ok." Sweet boy gave me a hug and wiped a tear off my cheek. He hasn't cried but he told me he's sad that she's gone.

She was my first dog and I had her for 2.5 years and I love her to pieces. I thought she'd be with me for her whole life. She was my first baby, the first member of my little family. I know I drove people nuts with all my facebook posts and zillion pictures of her cuteness. I didn't get it either until I became a dog momma and fell in love with this snuggy, sweet fur baby who shared my same name when I got her. To avoid having 2 Autumn's in the house, I shortened hers to Auty and it has fit her ever since. I'm really really really going to miss Auty. I already miss her. It feels empty and strange in the house. I haven't cried this much in a really long time. If you read my last blog, you'll know that she's been snapping at Mihretu because he makes her anxious and so I made the very hard, emotional decision to surrender her back to the animal rescue organization I got her from. I know it's the best thing for Auty too because it's not fair to her to be in a setting where she's anxious all the time. Plus I wasn't able to give her the same kind of attention I once was. They found her a foster home sooner than I thought. I thought it might be 3 or 4 weeks but it ended up being 1 week. I tried to soak up every moment because I knew a big chunk of my heart would go right along with her - but even so, it still doesn't feel like I had enough time with her. But I know it never would feel like enough because I didn't want to say goodbye to my first baby.

 She has been such a blessing to me. She's taught me about unconditional love. She's licked my tears when I've cried in Mihretu's room during those long months of waiting and not knowing if he would really be coming home or not. She gave me a reason to be home more and it was the perfect transition into the nesting phase and ultimately into being a mom to a precious little boy. She got me in the habit of waking up early:) I can look back at the past 2.5 years since I got her and see how God used her to teach me so many things. I got used to coming straight home after work to let her out. I got used to planning the days and evenings around her and when she would need to eat or be let out. Not the same level of responsibility as parenting Mihretu but certainly more than I had in my home life prior to having her and certainly one step closer to being a mom and helping me prepare. I used to walk her every morning AND every evening as long as it wasn't raining. I used to have her sleep with me. I used to spend pretty much every evening when I was home snuggling with her on the couch. Even before I surrendered Auty back, all of those things had changed. They had to change - I had a dog and a child to be responsible for now and to give my attention to. We still planned our evenings around letting her out and feeding her but she didn't get walks near as much as she used to (thank God we have a huge backyard for her to run) and she certainly didn't get as much attention from me. Not in the same way, anyway. She would get attention from Mihretu who loves her so much but she didn't seem to want that as much as attention from me. Especially since he made her very nervous. It's just been different for awhile now. She didn't get to sleep with me anymore because when she started getting anxious around Mihretu that was one of the first things trainers told me had to stop. I was very sad about that. And I've missed our evenings to snuggle up and watch tv before bed for awhile now since Mihretu won't fall asleep by himself and so I lay down with him and end up falling asleep and then getting up sometime in the night to transition to my own bed. It's been different - a new normal for us. And that was hard but saying goodbye to her is by far one of the hardest things I've had to do in my life. It feels like a death in the family. She was a huge part of my little family and a huge part of my heart and always will be. I'm definitely in a grief stage right now. Writing this is helping me process it a bit. I know it'll take awhile.

If there was a way to be able to do life with Auty exactly like before but also have the wonderful blessing of Mihretu in my life - that would be a perfect world scenario. But the reality is, with the great blessing of one thing came the loss of another thing. Something I really truly loved with all my heart. And that's ok but it is hard. I know Auty will be fine and so will we.

But today... right now, it hurts.

I would not trade being a mom to Mihretu for anything - but I just want to be real about this journey because I know a lot of other moms are going to be able to relate. Maybe it's not a dog but maybe it's some other kind of loss in the midst of great blessing. And maybe somebody reading this is already relating and experiencing some of that right now. If that is you - what I want to say is that God is there in the midst of our tears. He knows it hurts. But He also promises to never leave or forsake us. He has been whispering things to my heart this past week. This is what He said to me and perhaps it will encourage you:

 "My precious daughter - I am holding your heart. I see your tears. I know this is hard for you. It's ok to cry. It's ok to let go. It's ok to surrender Auty to me. I will take care of her. I will take care of you and Mihretu. I brought Auty into your life. You thought it was forever but I never told you that it would be. It was for a season. Look at how she helped prepare you for motherhood. Look at how much she taught you. Let go, my daughter. Release her. Let her be a blessing to another family like she was to you. It's ok. I know you don't want to but it's the right thing. I'm teaching you through this. And I'll teach Mihretu through this too. It's ok. It's ok. It's ok. Trust me with this. I've got this."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Unexpected Tears

This week, I sent an email that conveyed a decision that I can honestly say has been the hardest decision I've had to make as a parent thus far. I've balled my eyes out several times since. This is a hard week for me. This is not a place I ever expected to be.

When I began the adoption process and got closer to the gotcha day where I would finally bring my son home -  my concern regarding our dog was that he'd be terrified of her. Which he was for over a month. It was challenging and stressful for all 3 of us. I had to put up a baby gate and keep them separated. When I would let her out or feed her, I had to carry Mihretu and he clung to me for dear life out of pure terror. He would scream if she would sniff his feet while I was carrying him. This was hard but this... this scenario... I expected. I had other friends who have adopted children who were also terrified of dogs. It didn't make it an easier but I had hope that this season would pass and they would become buddies. It passed after about a month when he finally started to warm up to her out in the backyard where there was wide open spaces and he would throw her sticks. It wasn't long after that when he transitioned from being scared to just loving her to pieces, wanting to help feed her, let her outside, give her treats, take her for walks, and hug her. I was so happy to be past that hard stage.

But we really weren't past the hard stage at all. Once he warmed up to her and started getting near her - she started getting snappy with him because she was anxious. Early on, I contacted the animal rescue agency I adopted her from and began talking to them about what to do. They had lots of pointers which we immediately implemented. I also ended up having a dog trainer come to the house to work with us too. She gave me some direction too and seemed to think that Auty was just anxious around Mihretu at times and simply warning him to back away at times when she growled or snapped at him. She told me some things to avoid (him getting near her while she's under the table or in any kind of "den" scenario, not letting her on the bed or couch with us, etc.) and basically just said that I should never allow them to be alone together without me there and that I needed to keep working with Mihretu on how to interact with Auty. We've been doing all of those things. Mihretu has learned to be super gentle and careful around her. I'm also on alert watching their interactions and jumping in to change the setting whenever it looks like Auty is getting anxious or annoyed. It works a lot of the times and I felt hopeful and encouraged that we could do this and that eventually once Auty was used to Mihretu, she'd love him and stop snapping at him. But even with all the things we are doing that she suggested, it's still a challenge on a regular basis and she is still snapping at him in random moments almost weekly. I know some dogs are just not the best for homes with small kids. I just didn't think Auty would be one of those dogs. And the fact is his fast movements and loud noises simply make Auty very anxious.

I love her so much. It truly feels like part of my heart is being ripped out. I've prayed about this decision and it has literally take me 6 months to even come to grips with it or to be able to make this decision. Mostly cause I wanted to give it time because I hoped beyond hope that it would get better. It's still happening and so I have to face the reality of the situation for the safety of my child. Ultimately, as much of a sacrifice this is for me, I know that it's the right decision - for Mihretu's safety and honestly for Auty too. It's not fair for her to live in a home where she's anxious. The thing that I'm holding on to right now is the hope that the perfect family for her is near and it'll be a family that doesn't have small children and is able to love on her like she loves so much - like I was able to do before I became a mom to Mihretu. When it was just me and her, I gave her my full attention. She is one of the most affectionate dogs I have ever met. She loves to snuggle and she's just such a sweet, sweet dog. Other people who've met her say the same thing - she is a snuggly, loveable dog like none other. I fell in love with her instantly and can't even believe that I have to let her go. This just sucks. There's no other way to put it.

We still have Auty at our house while the animal adoption agency tries to secure a foster family for her while they do the search for a permanent home. We are continuing to be very cautious in the meantime. And I am praying many prayers that the perfect family will come along quickly so that Auty can have as little transition as possible. It hurts my heart to think she will feel abandoned. And to think about how Mihretu will respond. He's going to be devastated too. It's just a heartbreaking situation all around. Just because you know the right thing to do doesn't mean it's easy. Please pray for us and especially for Auty - that she would find a permanent home that really will be forever this time. Once I know she has that - I will feel so much better about the whole situation. She's an amazing, sweet, snuggly, awesome dog that will thrive in an environment with lots of love and without little kids. The right family is going to love her like I have. And she is going to love all the attention they will give her. I just hope they come along soon. And in the meantime, I'm trying to prepare Mihretu for the change and love on Auty as much as I can while she's still with us. And I'm also trying to grieve this. Lots of tears. Tears that I never expected to be crying because I never expected to be in this situation.

LOVE our Ethiopian family

We just returned from Ethiopia and oh boy - my heart is completely wrecked. Mihretu and I traveled on our own last March (2018) over his ...