Welcome to my circus.

May 24, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- February #2, 2015

Join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Preschool Teacher: . . . but she doesn’t know what sound a “w” makes yet.
Husband: (mutters) Thanks, Obama.
‪#‎parentteacherconferences‬

The three year-old keeps telling me that he *still* loves me. I don’t know if that should be reassuring or disconcerting.
‪#‎istilllovehimtoo‬

Danny: Mom, we got Olafs at the grocery store. Not the snowman kind. You know, the green ones with red in the middle? I love those Olafs.
‪#‎olives‬ ‪#‎momtranslationskillz‬

Early morning wake-up call:
“Mom, I need clean things.”
“Did you pee your pants?”
“No, Mom.”
“Oh good.”
“These aren’t pants, they’re footies. I peed my footie pajamas.”

6 year-old saw somebody had left the water running in the bathroom.
“GUYS! It’s like money is just going RIGHT. DOWN. THE. DRAIN.”
‪#‎currentfavoritechild‬

When people want to tell me they’re color blind because we’re all the same under the surface, I want to tell them about how different races have different kinds of earwax. But apparently that’s how you get labeled the “crazy adoptive mom.”
‪#‎adoptivefamilyproblems‬

Continue Reading →

May 17, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- February #1, 2015

How to determine if a child needs to use the bathroom: Put him in four layers of snow clothes.

Anybody else hand their toddler a sandwich and then start singing “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly.” No? Just me? That’s what I thought.

When one of my kids hurts another one (on purpose or accident) I ask them to go comfort their sibling. 90% of the time this results in further injuries. . . on purpose or accident.
‪#‎toddlerhugsaredangerous‬

Joel: Mom, can I chillax in Josh’s room?
Things only 3 year-olds with older siblings say.

Josh: Mom, my hands are freezing from outside!
Me (warming them in my hands): They don’t feel that cold to me.
J: But Mom, I’m African. I’m not made for snow.

I’m pretty sure one of the circles of hell involves putting mittens on toddlers.
‪#‎whereisyourthumb‬

“Whoops. I forgot there was a baby in that closet.”
‪#‎largefamilyproblems‬

Continue Reading →

May 15, 2015
by Maralee
2 Comments

Foster Mom, it’s okay to ask about Race

When my husband and I decided to adopt, we knew we were becoming a transracial family. During the lengthy wait to be matched with our Liberian son I joined educational groups to learn how to appropriately care for African hair and skin. I read books about being a transracial family and the experience of transracial adoptees. I bought brown dolls and African music and storybooks that had brown kids as the main character. I collected African recipes to try. We knew that we could never duplicate the experience of growing up inside his own culture with people who looked like him, but we wanted to do the best we could to embrace his history and his people. We wanted him to know that we valued his culture and that we wanted him to value it, too.

While we were already a transracial family when we became foster parents, we were still a little blindsided when we took our first foster placement. We got the call about a baby who needed a home and for very important legal reasons (ICWA) it was immediately disclosed to us that this baby was Native American. All of the months I had in the adoption process to prepare to add an African to our family and now we were just a weekend away from adding a child with a totally different culture and history from either ours or or son’s. And I was totally unprepared.

It has been a crash course for us in learning what it means to be Native American and value Native American culture. We now care about issues we had no concept of before. We’re interested in a new history, we buy a new kind of books, cook new kinds of foods, and talk about current events in our son’s tribe. I watch documentaries on Native American issues and reservation life with a new passion because this stuff matters to my family.

Continue Reading →

May 9, 2015
by Maralee
5 Comments

The Unexpected Reproduction Conversation

Before you read this, there are a few things you should know:

-I believe “the sex talk” isn’t just THE sex talk, it is a series of conversations that often happen while you’re just trying to mash a banana for the baby and get breakfast on the table. This was one of those conversations although we have had many before and I’m sure we will have many later.

-We believe that sex outside of marriage can have some tough consequences and we are educating our kids about those things. You don’t have to agree, but I’m giving you a heads-up that that’s the perspective we’re coming from.

-As I reflect on what I said, there are a thousand things I think I could have said better or handled differently (I probably didn’t need to make them self-conscious about how they look without pants), but that’s why this is an ongoing conversation and not a onetime event. I’m pretty sure I’ll get another shot at clarifying those things in the future.

-I have eliminated the names of my kids. They are not listed here in age order, just in order of who spoke first.

So here we go. This is the actual conversation that happened at my breakfast table this morning.

Child A: The neighbor kid says we have three butt holes.

Me: What?!

Child A: The neighbor kid says we have three butt holes

Child B: Do we have three butt holes?

Continue Reading →

May 8, 2015
by Maralee
1 Comment

Every Mother is also a Daughter (radio interview)

As I’ve been raising my two little girls, it occurs to me more and more that I am potentially shaping future mothers. Each mom out there has also been a daughter and the impact of our families of origin is huge. It shapes how we view what is “normal” in our lives, in our parenting, and in our homes. It influences the kind of relationships our kids have with their grandparents. It can be source of confidence for us or a source of stress.

I enjoyed getting to share some thoughts about mothers as daughters and how we navigate those relationships during my radio interview this month. You can listen to the link here and I will also have some additional thoughts below. I’m happy to hear any of your thoughts about how your mom has impacted you or how you deal with the tricky relational issues between you, your parents, your spouse and your kids. (Fun fact– I mention boundaries. A lot. I really like good, healthy boundaries. As part of the radio interview Stan told me at one point not to mention boundaries because it was going to be addressed in the next question. That was the hardest 3 minutes of my life.)

-When it comes to honoring our father and mother, I feel like my family has an extra level of responsibility. We also believe it’s important to honor the birthparents of our kids. Even if their choices aren’t ones we agree with and even if they’ve caused some level of harm to our kids, we still want to “honor” them. So what does that mean? We speak as positively as we can about them while still being truthful. We pray for them. We seek to understand them and see them as humans and not just mythical figures, which helps us to offer them grace. It is possible to honor someone and still need to have healthy boundaries. Honor doesn’t mean we have to obey them and it doesn’t require us to be dishonest about the realities of who they are and how their choices have impacted us.

Continue Reading →

May 3, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

The Rule of Buttons and a Collar

When I was a little girl in the 80s we dressed up for church. I wore itchy tights and lacy dresses with poofy sleeves and big hair. I still can’t understand how my mom managed to use hot rollers and hairspray on a six year-old. I’m pretty sure if I tried that with my daughter she’d end up in the ER pretty quickly. But I loved getting dressed up for church. It felt special and fancy when my Monday through Saturday gear was mostly t-shirts and jeans.

I went through a time in high school when I didn’t want to get dressed up anymore. Other kids were wearing jeans to church and we were all about being “authentic” and “accepting ourselves” getting dressed up seemed like a remnant of the past. Even the adults were starting to dress down for church. As much as I pushed against it, my parents wouldn’t budge.

When my husband and I were newly married and in our early twenties we went to work at a children’s home. We became instant parents to six young men and were now responsible for making the rules about what was acceptable to wear to church. In the days since our youth, church had become increasingly an informal experience. The kids we were raising hadn’t grown up in the church, so it was all new to them and they only knew this current version. We went back and forth about how much of an issue to make out of what they wore, since we knew God was more concerned with their hearts. It also became an issue because many of our kids didn’t own dress clothes and we’d have to purchase things specifically for this purpose. Was it worth it? Did it even matter?

Continue Reading →

April 23, 2015
by Maralee
3 Comments

Maybe Jesus was an Annoying Three Year-Old

I am now raising my fourth three year-old and I’ve come to an important conclusion:  Three year-olds are at the height of their cuteness and their annoyingness. I really don’t mind the toddler stage all that much. The kids are ridiculously adorable and they’re just starting to learn some actual life skills. They say hilarious stuff and will randomly hug your leg and declare, “I so glad I your family, Mom.” (Actual quote from my current three year-old, Joel) My eight year-old doesn’t do that anymore, so I’ll take it while I can get it.

IMG_6296-1

But FOR THE LOVE these kids are annoying. They cry about everything. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. The oatmeal is too hot. Now it’s too cold. These are not the Superman socks they wanted when they told you they wanted to wear Superman socks. You found their favorite show, but this is not the episode they like. You told them to eat their chicken nugget but they don’t like how this one is shaped. A sibling looked at them when they didn’t want to be looked at. These are all reasons for a major breakdown.

And it’s not just the crying that’s annoying. They will also argue about anything. If you are not careful you will find yourself in a full-fledged debate with a child about topics that don’t even make sense. Is there a pool in the library? Are fruit snacks made out of melted crayons? Did Grandma ride a horse to school? WHY ARE WE ARGUING ABOUT THIS STUFF? All their adorable verbal skills get used for evil instead of good and it is draining to deal with that from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. And that assumes they slept through the night, which is not a given around here. And WHY do they stop napping around this age? I still enforce a quiet time, but “quiet” is a very subjective word to a three year-old.

Parenting a toddler is exhausting.

But here’s what I’ve been reminding myself: just because a behavior is annoying doesn’t mean that it’s morally wrong. I think it’s easy as a parent to deal with obnoxious behavior as though it is sinful behavior because it makes us so frustrated. Which has made me wonder. . . Was Jesus a typical annoying three year-old? If we believe he truly was human, then I kind of think he was.

Mothers know that line in “Silent Night” about the little Lord Jesus not crying is total malarkey. And I think the same is true about his toddler years. Did the sinless Jesus cry about stupid stuff? Probably. Did he keep falling down when Mary was in a hurry to get somewhere and she ended up half dragging him through the parking lot. . . I mean, the market? Maybe. Did he poop his pants when she thought he was mostly over that stage? Is it heretical if I think he did?

I imagine Mary got irritated with her son, even though he was sinless. I bet at times it was because there was a training or teaching issue she needed to handle and she was tired (I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I don’t think sinless means he was born potty-trained). And I bet at times it was because Mary had just kind of had it with this whole parenting thing because moms are people too and have our own struggles. As parents, we can respond to the typical non sinful behavior with sin of our own– anger, hurtful words, rolling our eyes– and we can do it in ways that puts the blame on our child. How often have I said, “You are making me so angry!” as though my frustration at a child accidentally dropping their peas is justified and only the fault of the toddler.

It’s been a good perspective adjustment for me when I’m tempted to be angry at my child to ask myself the classic WWTJD. You know– What Would Toddler Jesus Do? If my child is sinning, I need to deal with the sin. I need to be firm, consistent and direct. If my child isn’t sinning, but is just annoying, I need to deal with that too, but I need to realize that some of the problem may be my own grumpiness or short temper or buttons that are too easily pushed.

I’m not saying it’s okay for kids to be annoying. We are trying to raise civilized human beings who can function well in adult society and letting them be rude or controlled by their emotions or unaware of how their actions are impacting others isn’t helpful to that process. I have just noticed that sometimes it’s easier to wink at sin (“Isn’t it adorable when she sneaks her brother’s food when he isn’t looking.”) and overreact about the things that annoy us (“WHY ARE YOU SO LOUD?!”) instead of being appropriately upset about sin and able to let some of the annoying stuff go.

So when I’m about to LOSE MY MIND at the sound of a Hot Wheels car being dropped on the hardwood floor for the one hundredth time, it’s okay for me to calmly say, “Mommy needs some quiet. Please take that car over on the carpet or else put it away.” But I need to remember that this is just the annoying behavior of a three year-old. He’s not trying to make me crazy, ruin my day, or even be bad. I don’t need to respond to him as though he is. I’m guessing that’s a lesson Mary had to learn, too. Maybe.

April 19, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- January #2, 2015

Join the fun on Facebook or Twitter.

In case you’re wondering, it is possible to cry about the fact that your baby is big enough to move out of your room at night and into his own and ALSO cry about the fact that your nearly six year-old keeps leaving his room at night to come into yours.

I am currently making Spite Brownies. You know- brownies you’re making only for the purpose of denying them to a child who is in trouble. (Don’t feel too sorry for him- he snuck a donut when he was supposed to be napping.)
‪#‎momconfession‬

Me (staring sadly at the disassembled bassinet): He just got big so fast.
Brian: I hate to break it to you, but he was born big.
‪#‎fact‬ ‪#‎10pounder‬

Maybe you shouldn’t laugh at your kids, but it’s kind of hard when the five year-old tries to get out of having to go to bed by saying her nose hurts when she touches it.

Last night I made Spite Brownies (brownies you make for the purpose of denying them to a naughty child) to punish a child who snuck down during nap time and ate a donut. Today he snuck down during nap time and ate the Spite Brownies.
‪#‎shouldhaveseenthatcoming‬ ‪#‎nomorenapsformom‬

Continue Reading →