Friday, February 25, 2011

Confessions of a Special Needs Mom

It seems that God has answered our prayers in regards to what to do with our pending adoption. I'm writing that post now and will try to share soon.

But for now, I thought I'd share about what I've learned about myself during this process.

We spent many weeks compiling a list of "special needs" we would consider. And then when we found the child we felt was ours, we spent many hours researching and talking with doctors about what kind of long-term care she would need and how we could improve her quality of life.

And here's what I discovered. There was no "special need" on any listing that outdid my own "special needs." I felt that it would only be fair for any prospective adoptive child to be given the same information on this possible mother with full disclosure of all imperfections.

My file would read something like this:

She goes by the name "Kathie." She is considered an "older parent" (over the age of 40) although there are no grants available. Should you choose her, it is with the understanding that by the time you are in high school, others will think she is your grandmother.

She will need reading glasses to read you a bedtime story and may not be able to stand upright after sitting Indian style at a tea party.

She has many well-meaning behaviors that may cause extreme irritation. For example, she will take millions of photos of you but has no actual photography skills. You will have to put up with the auto-flashing and shutter-clicking, but you'll only have out-of-focus pics with your eyes closed to show for your patience.

Small toys not put away will mysteriously disappear. She can't stand "happy meal" items that didn't make anyone happy and you should note that these items are quickly donated or discarded.

She will sing you lullabies in spite of the fact that she is completely tone deaf.

She will want to dress you until you go to college. This may not be an issue in the early years, but by the time you are a teen, you will be wondering if you can escape through the air-conditioning vents of the dressing room during a shopping trip gone bad.

She will occasionally go freaky with the food she serves--going gluten-free, low-sugar, wholly whole wheat, and completely organic. You may try to trade up lunch items at school but no one will want a protein bar that tastes like cardboard in exchange for their Little Debbie snack cake. And then there are moments that she passes a Krispy Kreme establishment and the "hot donuts" sign is on. You should not call her a hypocrite if you'd like to partake of the white-flour, sugar-glazed manna that she is about to inhale.

She will often seem completely unfair. There will be movies and music and TV shows that everyone is allowed to see and hear, and you will be the ONLY one not watching/listening. If you ask why, she will simply respond with "Not Philippians 4:8 standards." ("Whatever things are good, pure, lovely, think on these things. . . .")

When you need clean socks you will be directed to a laundry basket solely dedicated to socks who have no partner. It is your job to play matchmaker and find two that are somewhat the same size and color. Good luck.

You will be fine if you need this mom to provide help in proofing papers, annotating poetry, and diagramming sentences, but you will up a creek without a scientific calculator if you need math help past the 6th grade. The Pythagorean Theorem makes her break out in hives, any attempt to find the area of a complex polygon will reduce her to her lowest common denominator, and she would rather poke her eyes out with a protractor than check your math homework.

She is a strong advocate for enjoying God's creation. She will pull over on the side of the road to behold a sunset, a rainbow, or wildflowers growing among asphalt. She will make everyone stop what they are doing to hear the birds singing outside and make you watch butterflies instead of TV. She will insist that you run outside at night to marvel at the stars and require that everyone pose for a picture with the first flower of springtime (which will no doubt capture you not smiling and cut off part of your head).

Although she cooks with love, she also cooks using whatever she has in the pantry and with the fewest number of ingredients possible. All her recipes are named something that ends in the word "surprise" (some surprises are better than others) and it's a safe bet that these culinary creations will never be featured on Food Network.

She absolutely can not handle whining or pouting. If there are words/sounds/looks that even hint at ungratefulness, you will be forced to select an item from her "consequence jar." On this little slip of paper, you will read your consequence (for example, wiping down baseboards and window blinds) for attempting to voice your concern. It's her sick way of teaching you a lesson while having you do a chore that she hates to do herself.

She suffers from Broken Record Syndrome. For example, you will hear phrases such as "good behavior equals privileges, bad behavior equals consequences" repeated till you think your ears are going to be permanently damaged.

She is a cryer. She will cry at your classroom doorway on the first day of school and at your ballet recital or soccer game. She will weep the first time you get your hair cut, swim without floaties, and ride a bike without training wheels. She will wail at birthday parties, graduations, and your wedding day. (Note: We are not talking delicate tears caught in monogrammed handkerchiefs. We are talking big ugly sobbing, sometimes snorting, pass-that-woman-a-box-of-tissues kinds of boo-hooing.) She is also a hugger and a kiss blower. You've been warned.

She might have attachment issues. Every single time another child is added to the family, she worries and wonders how she can possibly love the new one as much as the others. (But she, thus far, has had no trouble attaching to the ones God has given her.)

No matter how hard she tries, she will never understand what it feels like to be taken from your home country, to lose the only family and friends you have ever known, to have to learn a new language, adapt to a new culture, and acquire a taste for new food.

She will often feel overwhelmed in caring for your physical and emotional needs and wonder if she will ever be the mother you deserve. She won't understand that some days you need special care and other days you just want to be treated like everyone else.

Sometimes she gets tired, sometimes she feels stress, sometimes she loses her patience, sometimes she says things that she wishes she could take back.

She is a sinner, in need of a Savior, living in a fallen world, raising children who are sinners, in need of a Savior, living in a fallen world. And this means that she is flawed, that she will make mistakes, that she will need forgiveness.

And this is why she often feels so unworthy to be the mother of those precious children God has already entrusted her with and why she is so grateful for every child He brings to their family.

Hoping Someone Chooses My File,

Monday, February 14, 2011

We're Having a . . .

After weeks of wondering . . .

the envelope please.

Our Valentine's gift is . . .

a little GIRL!

Thank you, God, for the blessing of this precious life!

Happy Valentine's Day!

I mentioned in my last post that we'd be finding out the gender of our surprise blessing on Valentine's Day. And thus far today I've had MANY people call, text, and stop me in the carpool line wondering if we are having a boy or a girl. I figured that by the time you have your 5th, people stop caring what gender you are having so it's sweet that so many have asked.

So if any of you bloggy friends are wondering if we'll be adding pink or blue this June, this is a pre-post. We haven't opened the envelope yet because Ava has early morning play practices and she and dad leave before the others wake up. We decided we could wait a few more hours and find out what we're having after dinner. Unless my computer crashes (which is very possible), I will announce later tonight what kind of little one God has graciously blessed our family with.

Anyone want to guess if it's a boy or a girl?

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a story below that I posted last year about Valentine's Day. It reminds me to thank God for the dear people that bless my life.

Much love you all!

I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. And considering this is a day set aside for expressing love, I’m sorry to admit that many years have been heavy on the hate.

Maybe it’s because of society-imposed expectations of what this day represents and how it should be celebrated. In a world that often seems divided into the Haves and Have-nots, on February 14 it can seem these categories have been renamed Loved and Unloved. But I was lucky to learn an important Valentine’s lesson early in life.

I must preface my story by letting you know that as a ninth grader I was two feet taller than any boy in my class and weighed less than a small domestic dog--and most of those pounds belonged to my hair. (It was the 80’s and I grew up in a city known for its humidity--you do the math.) I had taken terms like “awkward phase,” “really bad perm,” and “self-esteem issues” to new levels. That was the year someone suggested that by spray-painting myself green, I could trick-or-treat as a stalk of broccoli. But it wasn’t until that fateful February day that I felt like a character from a Judy Blume novel.

The student government at my high school had an annual fundraiser. They would take orders for carnations in white, pink, and red and on V-day deliver them to the fortunate recipients during morning classes. I didn’t think much of it when the first flowers arrived and ignored the giggles of the girls reading the attached construction paper cards from their prince charmings and “best buds 4 ever.” But soon I realized that I was the only girl in the class who hadn’t gotten a flower. (Even some boys had gotten them!)

Like listening to kernels of popcorn in a microwave, I knew that as the flurry of flower delivery slowed down they had almost finished distribution. In ten minutes the bell would ring and I would have to navigate the halls of flower laden girls empty-handed.

But then the classroom door opened and a delivery girl walked in. It seemed she was coming toward me, although I wasn’t sure because--thanks to the hair--I had very little peripheral vision. My heart raced as inside I was praying, “Please, God, let it be for me.”

And then . . . prayers were answered, angels sang, and all was right with the world as she tapped my shoulder and handed me the most beautiful pink carnation a dollar ever bought. I slowly looked down at the attached card--dying to know who had sent it--yet not wanting to look like I cared. And then I read simple words that I’ve carried with me for the rest of my life: “Thanks for being my little sister. I love you.”

It was quite a shock, because the sentiment usually coming from my sister’s mouth was along the lines of, “Get out of my room!”

She was a senior that year and perhaps she remembered what it was like to be a freshman of my make and model. But I doubt when she wrote that card she knew how much those words would make me feel valued or how “I love you” could erase insecurity.

It wasn’t because I had joined the ranks of those who had flowers, but because I had joined the ranks of those she loved. And I must say that my dear big sis is one of God's greatest blessings in my life today.

So what’s the moral of the story? That flowers have always been overpriced or that a woman nearing 40 should really let go of things that happened in high school?

Although, yes, these are valid answers, I think the real lesson is that sweethearts come in a number of varieties and that Valentine’s Day not only celebrates love between lovers, but also love between friends.

Over the years I’ve tasted a Whitman’s Sampler of Valentine’s Days. Thanks to my husband, I’ve had my share of candlelit dinners, sweet-smelling bouquets, and love letters that make me forget I was ever in the ninth grade. And, thanks to my children, I’ve gotten handmade cards, sticky hugs and kisses, and living examples of unconditional love.

But, thanks to family and friends, I’ve learned that the love of a friend can get you through the semi-sweet years and make the good years even sweeter. So this year if you find yourself the “older sister” to a little girl with big hair, send a card, make a phone call, or give a hug and say, “Thanks for being my . . . sister, brother, mother, father, grandchild, daughter, son, neighbor, friend. I love you.”

Because on Valentine’s Day there should be only one category of people. And that is Loved.