Welcome to my circus.

April 23, 2015
by Maralee
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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.

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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

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April 13, 2015
by Maralee
7 Comments

That time my eight year-old said The F Word at dinner

I am recording this conversation for posterity, because I don’t want to forget that this happened. (A little background– I grew up in a home where “gosh”, “darn” and “heck” were considered curse words. Swearing is just not in my DNA. I know other people have different feelings about it and I’m not overly scandalized by it, but it just isn’t something I feel compelled to do and I’m raising my kids in a similar fashion.)

To set the scene:

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Danny had decided to make dinner by himself for the first time. He made hardboiled eggs, toast, carrots and applesauce. Brian went to get a special meal for the two of us. . . because sometimes adults don’t want to eat hardboiled eggs and applesauce. That left me alone with six kids (some of them aren’t pictured above because they weren’t at the table yet and also because moms of six kids know what kind of drama can happen when you stop for two seconds to try and take a picture with everyone present). The kids are Josh (8), Danny (6), Bethany (5), Joel (3), Carrie (18 months), Teddy (6 months). And this is what happened:

Josh: Mom, some jerk spray painted bad words inside that sewer drain we walked through.

Me (absentmindedly, while feeding carrots to the baby): Oh yeah?

Josh: Yeah. You know, like “suck” and “f***”.

Me:. . . (jaw dropped. . . starring at him like a crazy person. . . kids are all happily eating hard boiled eggs having no idea that an eight year-old just casually said the worst word in the English language like he was discussing the latest happenings in the Pokemon universe). . . Ummmmmm. . . You know, Josh. . . I just never thought I’d hear you say that word. . . and you just now did. Right in front of all the babies that I hoped would never hear that word. But. Here we are. . .Okay. . .

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April 12, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- January #1, 2015

It’s okay to laugh. Everybody does. (Find me on Facebook and Twitter)

“And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again”. . . or so I’ve heard. . . from other people. . .

Josh (8): Santa isn’t real.
Brian: You don’t have to say he isn’t real since St. Nicholas was real, so it’s kind of like Santa was a real person.
J: Oh. So I should say, “Santa is dead.”
B: . . .Never mind. I think you had it better the other way.

Josh (to his younger siblings): In the new “Annie” his name is Mr. Stacks, but in the old movie his name was. . . Captain Moneypants.
‪#‎soclose‬

Sometimes I think my efforts would be better spent focusing less on cleaning the toilet and more on cleaning the two foot radius around the toilet.
‪#‎lifewithboys‬

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April 6, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

Healthy is Hard

It’s me on My Bridge Radio! You can listen to the link below or read. Or read along as you listen. Just listen for the chime to know when to turn the page. . . or something like that. . . Am I the only one who spent hours as a kid looking at books while listening to a recording of them? Probably.

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March 31, 2015
by Maralee
2 Comments

Foster Family Size and a DHHS Response

Thank you to everyone who read and shared my post on the new Nebraska foster family size regulations. An especially big thanks to those of you who have contacted somebody you thought could do something about it. Your voice was heard. I got a call from someone at DHHS on Friday to discuss the letter and the concerns they were hearing expressed. I want to share with you the gist of that conversation, and what action steps you can take to be sure your voice is heard on this issue.

The DHHS response:

There are many reasons to complain about a “broken system” when it comes to child welfare, but the conversation I had with the DHHS employee (who is on the committee charged with rewriting this law) reaffirmed what we have learned over our years of involvement with foster care– while the system may be broken, it is largely full of people who really do care. I think we have to remind ourselves of that when we get frustrated. Our frustration may be with bad laws that have tied the hands of people who are equally frustrated with the bad laws. That helps me be graceful and tactful even when I’m a little worked up.

Here’s what I learned from that conversation (please know this is all my layperson interpretation):

-This is not just a policy or regulation change, this is a law. Because it is a law, there may be some benefit to contacting your state senator to apply pressure. Let them know how this impacts your family or the families of people you know.

-DHHS was taken by surprise by the implementation of the law (it had originally been suggested a couple years ago, pretty much forgotten about, then the governor signed it right before leaving office) and is scrambling to figure out what this means for families and especially sibling groups. This explains why we didn’t have advance notice and why agencies were caught off guard as well.

-There is already a rewrite in progress. DHHS realizes this is going to have a negative impact, particularly on sibling groups and that needs to be addressed. I did not sense that there was a lot of openness to reconsidering the family size limits outside of the sibling issue, so we still need to make our concerns known on that point.

While the conversation I had was clarifying, it did not answer my biggest question— Why? Why now? Why these numbers?

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March 29, 2015
by Maralee
0 comments

A Life in Status- December #2, 2014

Watch it all for yourself on Facebook or Twitter.

Ever have the nagging feeling that you’re forgetting something? I just realized the something I forgot to do was make dinner.
‪#‎whatsfordinnermom‬ ‪#‎ummmmmmmm‬

Just when I think I can’t possibly love my 13 month-old daughter more than I already do, she breaks out her best dance moves during Handel’s “Messiah”

Feeling overwhelmed? I recommend jumping in the clean pile of laundry on your bed and making snow angels.
‪#‎protip‬ ‪#‎laundryangels‬ ‪#‎hopethatwasCLEANlandry‬

Getting ready to indulge in an olive oil and sea salt hand scrub. . . otherwise known as- getting potatoes ready for the oven.
‪#‎sofancy‬

When I talk about adoption lots of people tell me they aren’t sure they could love someone they aren’t blood related to. This makes me wonder if more people are married to their blood relatives than I previously realized.

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March 23, 2015
by Maralee
12 Comments

An Open Letter to The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

(*Please read the follow-up post with additional information and ways to get your voice heard on this issue.)

I have recently been made aware of a change in the family size regulations for foster parents in Nebraska. Previously, it was acceptable to have up to six children under age 12. Now a foster family may only have four children under age 12. Previously, you could have 9 children under age 18 in a foster home. Now you may only have a total of 6 children. (These numbers include biological, adopted or foster children in the total number.)

This change in regulations is very upsetting to me. I know it is upsetting to many other foster parents, too. It keeps families who have four little kids from getting involved in foster care. It keeps families with three little kids from even being able to take a sibling group. Families with six kids are out of the game for good or at least until their children start leaving home. It makes placing siblings together that much harder and it makes it impossible for families like mine (we have 6 kids under age 12- three of them adopted from foster care) to foster any additional siblings of our children that may come into care.

I know many foster families will feel nervous expressing their frustration with these regulations. As foster parents, we understand that for the most part our voice doesn’t matter. The state makes the rules and our job is just to follow them. To express frustration is to risk losing a placement or falling out of favor with the people who license you. Those of us who love fostering and care about the children in our home may find that risk is too great. We choose silence in the hope that we can continue to care for the kids we love.

But I’m not in that position anymore. We have adopted all our foster children and now with these new regulations we will not likely be fostering again. Ever. This feels like a great loss for our family and for kids who need loving, stable homes. Silence is no longer an option.

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March 20, 2015
by Maralee
3 Comments

Sometimes Moms Don’t Care (and it’s okay)

There is a lot of parenting advice floating out there in Internet Land. Some of it is really helpful, some of it is garbage, and sometimes it’s hard to know the difference. I struggle with some of the beautiful quotes plastered over pictures of mothers rocking sleeping babies that somehow manage to both inspire and make me feel incredibly guilty. This is one of those quotes:

“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

― Catherine M. Wallace

For some moms, maybe this is a really helpful truth that keeps you focused on the main thing. If that’s you, then bless you and just skip this post. But that is not how this quote strikes me. This quote makes me crazy. It is this little nugget that lodges in the back of my brain and makes me feel like a failure every single day when I choose not to listen earnestly and eagerly to the five year-old’s lengthy thoughts on if Power Rangers are real. Just incase there are other moms like me who need to extract that guilt-inducing brain nugget so they can get on with being the best moms they can be, I want to share why I’m not buying this particular parenting philosophy.

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