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It’s been about 2 1/2 years since we left Ohio for Arkansas. I really wish I would have kept up with my blogging during that period, but maybe it’s best that I didn’t. While I loved living in Arkansas and so many good things came out of it, I have to admit that the period we were there was one of the hardest times in my life.

There were so many changes that occurred during that time, as well as painful lessons, trials, loss, and revelation. Scott’s sister and her children moved in with us briefly as she and her husband attempted to save their marriage. First, it was just her teen son as she arranged for him to fly in and get settled first as she finished up last minute arrangements back home. That was an adjustment period itself and I regret that my kids struggled with some of the influence he had on all of us, as well as the leniency we showed him because we were trying to make the changes he was going through a bit easier to adjust to. I think our kids felt that we were making too many exceptions for him while holding them to a different standard, and I think they were right. We later learned that they had been exposed to some things they shouldn’t have been exposed to when we weren’t around. It wasn’t until he was gone they felt okay to talk to us about some of their experiences. It really got to me to think that my own children didn’t feel that they could talk to me about their concerns.

Finally, my sister-in-law made it in, and her husband promised to help get the family business settled back home and then he and the other three kids would join her and her oldest son. At that time, we were going to a smaller church we’d found and were just beginning to get involved in, but when my sister-in-law expressed that she was not happy there, we agreed to try to find a church that we could all agree on and go to together. And then we ended up not really going to church at all.

Later, when it was clear that my sister-in-law’s husband wasn’t really devoted to making the changes he needed to make in order to save their relationship, and when it was obvious he wasn’t going to move down to Arkansas as promised, a divorce followed and we all said goodbye to our hopes that they would make it, to each other as his sister and kids moved back, and to the hopes that our family could all finally live in the same town and settle down.

Scott and I really struggled during all this as we went through some major trials ourselves that tested our relationship and shook us both up a bit. Scott ended up taking on two separate roles with the company he works for – that is two full-time careers – and ended up in a near zombie-like state. That was miserable for both of us because even when he was physically present, he really wasn’t even there during a time when our entire family needed him as we went through other issues and hardships. When he asked his boss for help, he was promised resolution and assistance but nothing ever happened. Months followed and nothing changed. He and I both tried to deal with this and other issues on our own and in our own way, and that only made things worse. I think we both ended up hurting each other and ourselves in the process.

On top of that, I was already vulnerable due to other things going on, and ended up dealing with major self-worth and body image issues. I was fed a few lies about myself, and because I tend to believe the lies a lot easier than I do the truth, I lost myself. I was miserable inside, and couldn’t help but think that he was comparing me to every other woman out there. I suddenly only noticed every physical feature other women had that I didn’t and felt that there was no way my husband could be happy with me – with all my flaws. My scarred, stretched belly, and broken down body was ugly after having his children. How could he NOT want other women after looking at me? What was I? I was a stay-at-home mom…a housewife. What could I possibly have to offer him that was so great? Suddenly, I found myself striving too hard for my husband’s approval, affection, and interest. I noticed I was spending more time on my make-up, hair, etc.

Next, I contemplated plastic surgery. I even called and made an appointment to see a plastic surgeon for a consult – twice. But deep down inside I knew I would hate myself for trying to cover up the damage with a superficial bandaid of sorts. So I cancelled the appointments both times knowing it wasn’t the answer for me. I knew my problem wasn’t going to be fixed with surgery. I’d still look in the mirror and be the same insecure and lost woman trying to grasp hold of whatever it was I needed in order to feel whole and valued. I didn’t need to fix my body, I need to fix my head and needed healing in my heart and broken spirit.

So instead, I ended up going to counseling.

During this time, Patrick went to counseling too. We discovered he too, was struggling with his own issues. As we took a step back and really looked at the situation, we realized that our whole family was falling apart in a sense, and we couldn’t keep it together on our own. We realized we were relying too much on our own strength to make it through the hard times, and we really weren’t strong enough to make it on our own. We realized we’d kind of put God up on the back shelf and stopped seeking and relying on Him to guide us through the darkness.

The darkness – it was so, SO dark. Even as I read this, I can feel the darkness, the desperation, the helplessness, the sadness, the emptiness – all of it, attempting to creep back in.  I never ever want to go back to that dark place again.

But somehow, by His patience and grace, we made it through as truth was revealed and healing set in.  We learned a lot. Our dependence on God has grown as we realized how easily we slipped into a state of self-reliance. We now realize how He truly is the only one holding our family together.  It is not us!

We are weak without Him, and we will never make it if we try to do this on our own. It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time, because through all of the darkness, we’ve had a taste of His goodness.  He didn’t let us down, even when we were letting Him and each other down.

So here we are now, just as life was finally starting to get back to “normal.”  Just as I was finding myself again.  Just as I was truly establishing relationships and just as we were enjoying life even through the craziness…we suddenly are called to move back to Ohio.

And as I type all this out and reflect on the last couple of years, I am thankful that God had the patience and grace to work even in the darkness to reveal His truth to us.

It’s funny too, because it seems that God wants to make sure I don’t forget.  He seems to be speaking to me through my 3-year-old a lot lately.  Just last night she asked me a very serious question as she was coloring in her book, “Mom? Do you need Jesus?”

“Yes, America! I DO need Jesus!”

“Yes you do!” she replied enthusiastically.

The truth is, we all do.

YOU DO.

He is not just a free ticket to Heaven, He is so much more.  He is a loving God who wants us to be free from the things that hold us captive in our lives.  We do not have to be slaves to our sin, our past, our pain, nor weaknesses.  Where we are weak, HE is STRONG.  If we are willing to give ourselves to Him and totally rely on Him and walk in obedience, He will rescue us!  But we have to be willing to rely on Him to meet all of our needs.

He truly is a good and loving God, and I need Him!

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SundayDecember 14 
Gift:  Bibles/Bible Studies
Theme:  God’s word is a valuable gift and resource that we should not take for granted! 
Notes:  We are going to give each child either their very own Bibles, or if they already have one, a new Bible Study.  On that day we are going to talk about how His word is a gift to us, and how important it is to read His word. 
Verses:  Ps. 119:105, Psalm 119:11, Tim. 3:16-17, Ps. 37:31
Monday – December 15
Gift:  Sports Bottles –
Theme:  Living Water
Notes:  Jesus is our living water.  We can go to Him and ask him to fill us up so that we will never thirst again.  (Our kids will get to drink water as we talk about this with them).
Verses:  John 4:10,-14
Tuesday – December 16
Gift:  Socks, Underwear, Slippers, Gloves, Robes, P.J.’s (Whatever clothing item your kids may need)
Theme:  Putting on the Armor of God
Notes:  We will discuss how to put on the armor of God, keeping ourselves covered in His protection throughout our daily battles in life. 
Verse:  Ephesians 6:13
Wednesday – December 17
Gift:  Bread/Jam
Theme:  He is the Bread of Life
Notes:  I will make some home made bread ahead of time, and then we will give each kid their own little jars of jam or jelly.  While they spread their sweet jelly/jam on their bread, we will discuss how Christ is the Bread of Life, talk about the last supper, communion, and  also how man cannot live by bread alone. 
Verse:  Luke 22, John 6:47-48, John 6:35,51,
Thursday – December 18
Gift:  Pillows
Theme:  Peace and Resting in Him
Notes:  We will talk to the children about trusting in God, not worrying about tomorrow, and talk about the manger…how even Jesus was able to rest in the craziest circumstances!
Verse: Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27, John 16:33, Ps.91
Friday – December 19
Gift:  Art supplies (Markers, Crayons, Colored Pencils, and Paper)
Theme:  Symbols and Family
Notes:  We are going to create our own family crest!  Each child will draw something to symbolize our family.  We will talk about the different symbols representing Christ.  The cross, nails, the manger, etc.  Scott and I will put the symbols together to create a family crest, and then when we sit down to discuss our adoption story with Kelly, we are going to distribute family rings with our crest on it.  (Note:  We are doing the rings as a symbol/reminder to her that God put our family together, however, families could also make a flag with their family crest on it)!
Verse:  Matt. 13, Matt. 27:40, John 15:5, 1Cor. 1:17, (All see scriptures on Living Water and Bread of Life),
Saturday – December 20
Gift:  Various ingredients and/or cooking utensils needed to make a yummy treat – such as rice crispy treats. 
Theme:  “Share the goodness!”
Notes:  God often gives us something special we can share.  What happens when we put those things together?  If we all bring the good things we have and put them together we can make something even better.  We are the body of Christ, each part has an important role in His plan. 
(Be sure to give the younger kids something they won’t mind sharing.  For example, I’ll give my 2 year old butter, not the marshmallows! 
Verses:  Romans 12:5-6, 1 Corinthians 12,
Sunday – December 21
Gift:  Scrapbook supplies (Foam boards, hole punch, glue, scissors)
Theme:  Always Remember
Notes:  We should always remember what God has done for us.  What things can we do to help us remember?  We can also remember special memories w/ friends and family by creating a scrapbook/memory book.  We will let the kids create their own scrapbook with Foamboards and construction paper!
Verses:   Ps. 20:7, Ps. 22:27, Ps. 77:11,
Monday – December 22
Gift:  Mugs w/ Picture
Theme:  You are valued and loved
Notes:  We are each unique and different and loved very much.  We will fill our kids cups with hot cocoa and talk about how much God loves us, how sweet His love is, and how remembering His love will keep us warm inside when the world treats us coldly.
Verse: Psalm 139, Romans 8:38-39, Jeremiah 29:11
Tuesday – December 23
Gift:  Plant/Seeds
Theme:  We need to grow and nourish our spirits by planting God’s word within us. 
Notes: 
Verse:  Matthew 13:3, Prov. 30:5, Matt. 4:4, Luke 11:28, 1 Cor. 16:20, Ps. 119:11
Wednesday – December 24
Gift:  The kids will exchange gifts with each other.
Theme:  It is more blessed to give than to receive. 
Notes:  As the kids watch each other open their presents from each other, have them explain how it makes them feel to see their brother or sister smile when they open the gift they got for them.  Talk about other ways to give to each other and to others.
Verse:  Acts 20:35, 2 C0r. 9:7
Thursday – December 25 CHRISTMAS DAY!
Gift:  One Big Gift.
Theme:  God wants to give us good things/the desires of our hearts.
Notes:  We are going to get each of the kids one thing they really want (It doesn’t have to be an expensive gift, just something you know they would really like to have).   We are also going to take Communion together and reflect on everything we learned over the last 12 days!
Verses:  Matthew 7:11, Luke 11:13, Ps. 37:4-5

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It’s a long story…

and I have gone back and forth on whether or not to post anything on this, but I feel like perhaps sharing our experience on my blog will one day help someone else (I hope).  

I don’t have the energy to get into all the details right now, but please pray for us if you think about it.  Dwight threatened to commit suicide last night.  It was a very dramatic and emotional night, leading Scott to load him up in the car and take him to the children’s hospital by our house. 

They evaluated him and sent him home with the instructions to get him in to a psychiatrist Monday. 

I’ll post more later, but right now, like I said, I’m just emotionally and physically drained!

By the way, if you are a friend on Facebook, please don’t post any comments on there about this situation!  Thanks!

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Life has been rough the last year.  Real rough.  I’m not even going to pretend it has been easy!  Life with Dwight has been SO HARD.   He has really been struggling and there are days I think that he’s pushed me past my limits.  Maybe that’s why I finally got him enrolled in some counseling!

I’ve heard the expression that “God will not allow you to go through more than you can handle.”  But I have to respectfully disagree.  If God didn’t allow us to go through more than we could handle, why would we need Him?  I have been going through more than I could handle without Him…but because of Him, I am making it through, and I’m growing, and I am learning about new areas I need to completely rely on and trust and seek after Him.  I am at a point in my life where I can no longer be independent.  I NEED GOD.

And even though it is hard, it is such a liberating feeling to understand this and accept it!  I need Him!  Maybe it’s because I know that He will not let me down.  At the same time, it’s so humbling. 

I have just really been going through something the last couple of days that has humbled me.  Knowing how much I need God, knowing that we are going through some hard times right now, yet at the same time, God has continued to pour His blessings on me.  I’m honestly overwhelmed.  Here I have this teenage son who has so many issues and requires so much more than even the average teen, and it is so draining.  Most days I feel like I am giving, and giving, and giving!  I told my mom that he takes up about 85% of my energy and 50% of my free time.  Probably a slight exaggeration!  But the truth is, without him, life would just feel a bit empty. 

And then I look at each of my children.  They all require something of me, but they also bring something special to this family.  They are all different, but they all test me and suck me dry nearly every single day.  But I am so blessed.  Never in a million years would I have imagined I’d be living the life I have now.  I get to be the mom of Dwight, Patrick, Joshua, Kelly, Madison, and America!  Not only that, but I never thought I could have a husband who really gets it – who still treats me like a queen and tells me the things I need to hear on a daily basis.  After 11 years, he still makes me feel special – unique, like I’m THE ONE AND ONLY. 

Yes, things are hard.  There are moments I lose it and I want to pull my hair out, but WOW.  I am just so blessed to be the one who gets to live this life, to be the mother of these awesome kids and the wife to this amazing man.

I may be giving a lot lately, but God is giving so much more.  I am so thankful!

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Mom, this book is an easy read!  Can I borrow your Twilight book?

Maddison wore this outfit for her 6 month pics.  America is wearing it at 4 months!

I love this outfit!  I was able to put it on her on one of those rare warm days in November here in Ohio.  She’ll probably never get to wear it again now that it is cold enough to start snowing!

Like my new set up?  I am learning a lot about portion control with this Nutrisystem plan!  I decided to start portioning out the kids’ snacks into snack bags so I can teach them something about portion control and healthy choices too!  I let them choose one snack bag in the pantry a day.  Then their other snack has to be a fruit, veggie, and/or cheese/dairy product!

Another view.  Mini rice cakes, cheeze its, raisins, preztels, Pringles stix, and goldfish crackers.

Kelly with her snack bag.

Madison with her snack bag.  Raisins!  Raisins!  I want raisins!

Isn’t she so cute?

My little cuddle bug.  Look at those long toes!  She gets them from me. 🙂

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get ready.  This is the kind of stuff they’ll do!Door

See how the door is sticking out more on top than on bottom?  That’s because Dwight and Patrick pulled the door off its hinges.  Yup.  Dwight thought it would be funny to shut the laundry room door on Patrick while he was in there, so Patrick tried to get out. 

Best of all, they did this on Scott’s birthday!  Happy Birthday, Dad!

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You’d think by now I’d be used to it.  I mean, it happens about every other week.  (Read my post: The Death of Me and you’ll understand what I’m talking about!)  But I still get worked up when Dwight pulls his stunts.  Like yesterday.

I got a real thrill out of Dwight’s little explanation as to why he didn’t call me until after school got out to let me know I needed to pick him up.  Forget the brief moment of panic I felt when I woke up from my most needed and awesome nap and realized he never made it home from school!  He forgot to tell me the night before the cookie dough orders for his club came in and that he’d have to stay after school to pick them up.  I get that, he forgets everything, but when I asked him why he didn’t call me from school, during his lunch break to give me a heads up, he told me that I was going to have to pick him up anyway, so why bother giving me the advance notice?  Nice, huh? 

Yeah, teenagers are awesome!  Imagine how ticked I was as I turned back onto our street after rushing out of the house with two little ones to get him and finding Kelly and Joshua walking home.  The bus had already dropped them off and I barely made it home in time for them to get into the house.  He doesn’t get it, I know.  All he sees is a ticked off mama, not someone who was concerned and then stressed out about getting one kid picked up in time to be home for the rest of the kids. 

So after explaining to Dwight why I was upset with him about not bothering to call sooner, I woke up this morning to this letter:

Dear Mom,

You maybe (maybe is not a typo, he spelled it out that wayshocked to see that I have received a detention slip.  I was given the detention slip after being late for the third time.  The reason why was that I was trying to rush to my locker to get my U.S. History flashcards in order to review for my test (which took place in the class).  But the teacher said that it is only 10 minutes away from the end of class.  Sorry, I should have explained why it was important to go to my locker at the time.  Again, I apologize for you having to take up my slack.  When I recieved (spelled that way) the slip, I felt so ashamed that I felt like I was going to cry.  These reasons for being late are not excuses, they are explanations (because I need my 15 year old to point out the difference between excuses and explanations!)  It is optional to come to school early to serve detention.

Sincerely and “Responsibly,”  (Yes, he put that one in quotations himself!)

Dwight Last Name (Because I wouldn’t be sure which Dwight wrote me the letter if he didn’t include his last name!)

He totally doesn’t get it – planning ahead, being organized, making sure I’m available to pick him up, giving me advance notice – and I have to constantly remind myself that the PDD is partially to blame…and then there is the fact that he didn’t want to tell me in person because he doesn’t want to be in trouble.

It’s frustrating, but the beauty of it all is that God somehow planted this quirky thing in Dwight to be able to make me laugh, even when I’m frustrated with the kid.  I mean seriously, “Responsibly,” written in a letter about getting detention?  That is GREAT!

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