Saturday, September 22, 2012

Just some sentences......

It's late on Saturday evening. Children are asleep in their beds. I rocked Ethan to sleep tonight, loving every second. (even if he didn't think it was bedtime yet) :)

I ate my favorite ice cream for dinner: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Ok, maybe I have more than one favorite ice cream. Depends on the day and my mood. I figure if I eat ice cream instead of dinner it is better for me. Ahem. Or not.

We had a really great week, which I needed desparately. We've completed nine weeks of school already! I love everything about My Father's World.

While running errands in town today, we listened to the entire two-CD set of "Elsie's Endless Wait" Life of Faith dramatized audio-book. Can I just say how wonderful the story was? I missed a few minutes of the story when I ran into Target to pick out a new journal and had to pause the CD so the children could tell me what had happened. I love my new journal. And I can't wait to start writing in it.

I finished reading a couple of books the Social Worker gave me to read. "Three Little Words" quickly became a favorite. It's the autobiography of a young girl who went through a ridiculous amount of foster care placements, including several abusive ones, before being adopted at 12 years old. Her perspective was interesting, enthralling and encouraging to me, as the momma of an older adopted child. Adoptive parents would do well to add this book to their library.

I spent an hour and a half on the phone yesterday with our family doctor's office. Scheduling nine physicals (a requirement for our homestudy) apparently is unusual, requires special permission, and takes half an afternoon to complete. At least the receptionist and I are on a nice first-name basis now. Oh, and we need TB tests, which require a follow-up visit....I won't even tell you how many trips to town I have to make to get all of this done. :)

Noah had chicken pox two weeks ago. Which translates to: the rest of our children should be getting it soon because I exposed them really, really well. "Kiss Noah again! One more hug!" LOL

My husband has lost alot of weight since January. He also started running, and motivated me to give it a try. I about died the first time I tried to run 1/4 of a mile. Happy to report: I can now run over 3 miles a couple of times a week---and I don't feel half-dead afterwards! Hubby is the real winner, though. Love that man so much.

Whoever said that Sundays are a day of rest clearly didn't have 7 young children. I'm still very thankful for a day of worship (even if I do often work harder than most weekdays!). I've got an egg casserole in the oven, ready for tomorrow morning.

This weather is so confusing for my children and their clothing choices. "Mommy, long sleeves or short sleeves today? Can I wear my tights yet? Jeans or shorts?" Today it was 85, but tomorrow's high is only 70. I'm never in a hurry for the seasons to change.....I enjoy each one. Well, I don't LOVE winter, but I don't hate it either. Change is always nice. My favorite part of fall is our yearly trip to Carter's Mountain for their apple festival!

And with that, dear friends, I'm signing off. Morning comes early around here for Momma on Sundays. :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Alyssia: The Difference a Year Makes......

One year ago in China, a heartbroken foster mama and daddy said good-bye to a spunky little sparkly eyed baby. The baby they'd found 2 years before, abandoned as a tiny newborn. The baby who had slept in their bed, been comforted by their love, and charmed her way into their hearts.
They handed the beautiful baby girl over to her new daddy.

One year ago, a heartbroken little girl had her world turned topsy-turvy overnight. While she gained her "forever family", in the process she lost everything she'd ever known. The foster parents encouraged her to love your new American "baba" (daddy) but she didn't desire a replacement.

In desparation, she clung to the precious few items she came with: her clothes, her snack cup, her water bottle, and her sparkly red princess shoes. She spent hours crying in frustration that she couldn't hold all of her special things at once.

She slept fitfully, her nights filled with terror as she would awake and realize that the new daddy was still here and her foster mama was not. She would pick up her things and head for the hotel door, hoping this nightmare would be over soon.

The new daddy had prayed and waited for the moment he could hold his new baby girl in his arms---but naturally, she wasn't as excited as he was. Back home in America, the new mommy was clinging to every skype call, every email, every picture that was contact with her precious new daughter. Her mommy's heart ached to hold and comfort her during this difficult time.
Slowly, the baby girl began to accept her kind new daddy. They connected over food, over bath-time, over long walks and a soft new pink blankie.

  Just when the new normal was beginning to be predictable, the new daddy took the baby girl on a very, very long airplane ride......
which brought her to the arms of a new mommy. (and six fun new playmates!)
Having experienced the "hand-off'" once, baby girl was having none of it this time around.
She seemed convinced that if she liked the new mommy, even a tiny bit, the new daddy would leave and she would be abandoned yet again. So she clung tightly to new daddy and pushed, fought, screamed and sobbed when new mommy came near.
For a very long time... 

Even on "fun" days--like her 2nd birthday, the tears were still there. Especially if new daddy wasn't sitting VERY close by.

Each day the new daddy would peel the little arms off of his legs in order to leave for work.....and each evening, sweet baby girl would run to the new daddy and not let go of him all evening.

The new mommy tried very hard but it still took a long time for the sparkly little girl to start to shine through again.....
Until, finally, one day the new mommy could touch new baby without being smacked in the face....
Until one day, new baby would even SMILE with new mommy in the same room.

Until one day, new baby felt completely comfortable with her entire new family and the tears eased.....the fears subsided.......the night sweats went away......the nightmares and screaming were gone.

 And the new mommy was SO SO happy to finally be able to LOVE and be loved by new baby.

Welcome to the Bergey Bunch, Alyssia. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to love your sweet little self. This year has brought many changes for us and for you, but you are such a brave girl. Your spirit is gentle, kind, and so very precious to each one of us.

Never forget for a minute: You are so, so loved.

Happy 1 year Gotcha Day, Alyssia! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

God's Upside-Down Kingdom

Sometimes, life is hard and we feel like crying.
(Alyssia needing some Mommy-love after an "owie".)
The past few months have been very challenging for our family.

And I have cried. And prayed. And not shared a word about it on my blog because I want this to be a haven. A refuge for weary moms. An encouraging word for adoptive families. Not a place where I complain.

But that's not really fair, is it? To only share the really-great-cute-as-a-button-perfect-family pictures and posts but leave out the so-exhausted-I-don't-know-if-I-can-get-up-tomorrow-and-do-this-again pictures and posts?

I'm still torn---between baring my soul to the world and protecting my family's privacy delicately.

But I did want to share this........maybe because I need the reminder right now more than anything. :)

In God's kingdom, everything is upside-down from what the world's kingdom offers.

In God's kingdom, the first will go last and the last will go first: I don't need to be the best or the first, or worry for a second what place anyone else holds. Being last is God's way.

In God's kingdom, to get you have to give: I can be "on empty" and still give one more time. It's not about what I can get out of it, it's about what I can give. God can give THROUGH me.

In God's kingdom, the servant is the leader. I can lead the best by serving--even if no one else notices.

In God's kingdom, the road less traveled should be the highway for Christians. God is calling me to something greater than my dreams and plans---and harder, too.

Sometimes we paint a rosy picture of Christianity and we fail to tell the world that true discipleship requires our ALL.

God asks us to be willing to give up everything dear to us, to hold nothing back, to love and serve Him with abandon.

And that means that life will not always be easy. In fact, it might be extrememly lonely, full of heartache and trials, and quite opposite of what our ideal might look like.

It could be that, like with Job, God has allowed some horrendous, mind-boggling painful trials to sweep down on your life like a whirlwind and you can't even catch your breath or take a second to process the loss.

Or it could be, like with Moses, God is allowing your character to be formed through a series of ups and downs, mountains and valleys, slavery and starvation in Egypt mixed with milk and honey in the Promised Land.

Whatever your story is, remember this: GOD is the author.

And in HIS kingdom,

everything is upside-down.......

Friday, September 7, 2012

Teaching Toddlers about Sharing

A friend recently asked me, "Can you give some practical ways to teach unselfishness and kindness to my toddlers with regards to sharing?"

Children are born thinking only of what they want or need. This is perfectly normal and the way God designed them so they will survive their childhood. (ie, have all of their needs met) As they reach the toddler stage and begin interacting with the toys and people in their environment, it becomes time to gently begin to teach them that there are other people in this world and we must begin thinking of them. :)

Below are some of the practical ways we teach our children to show kindness and unselfishness.

(Disclaimer: My children are not perfect. Let me repeat that: My children are NOT perfect. Nor do I expect them to be. Please don't read this and think, She has it SO together all the time! because I fail just like you do. I only share in the hopes of offering encouragement to others on this journey of godly mothering. :))

Okay, back to the practical.


(1.) Actively teach "taking turns" instead of sharing

Let me begin by saying that I don't force my children to "share".

(Okay, just lost a bunch of readers. LOL)

Let me explain. I've had some parents tell me that they've told their children "everything in this house belongs to Daddy and Mommy" in a well-intentioned desire to teach that everthing we have ultimately belongs to God. They make their children share whatever they're playing with, whenever someone else wants it. 

But adults certainly don't "share" this way! If you walked up to my house and expected to use my things without my permission, I'd probably call the police. :) Even my closest friends and family members would ask nicely if they wanted to borrow my things. And I would have the freedom to say no if I currently needed the item OR didn't trust that they would treat it correctly. :)

We cannot teach our children to "give up their rights" unless they have rights to give up. For that reason, most of the toys in our home belong to one individual child. (Exceptions are legos, books, crayons, etc.) The owner of the toy may choose if and when they desire to share the toy with someone else. If a non-owner would like to play with a toy that belongs to a sibling, we teach them to ask, "When you're done playing with that, may I have a turn?" There's something very unthreatening about the "when you're done" part that usually helps the owner to be less likely to want to scream "MINE!" and run the other way. :) They know that they are free to play as long as they like, and then offer a turn. With the short attention spans toddlers possess, it's not usually long before the owner is bored and willingly handing over said toy.

If a toddler is playing with a toy that does not belong to them and the owner decides they would like to have a turn, the toy is immediately given to the owner. (Now, obviously this is a great "training opportunity" and we try to guide the owner to allowing the other child to continue playing with the toy. But if they want it back, it is theirs, so we allow them to nicely take it back. The non-owner can then ask the "When you're done...?" question and start the process from there. :))

Four ways to teach this taking turns mindset:

----------Role-play: Practice frequently, especially if the child is struggling. Script exactly what you want them to say: "Gabbey, can you ask Ethan for a turn with his firetruck? Good job! Ethan, can you give Gabbey a turn when you're done? Good job thinking of others, buddy!"

---------Coach: Even though a sports team may practice frequently, the coach doesn't go out to dinner on game nights and leave the team to play without his continual coaching. :) Stay close by, have your children play in the same room as you, and supervise their play. Catch "fighting" quickly and coach them through the script you've been role-playing.

----------Praise: Would you rather be disciplined for your failures or praised for your successes? Children are the same way. Praise goes such a long way with toddlers---act animated, use expression in your voice, and verbally praise good behavior. "Lyssie, you let Ethan have a turn! You must be such a big girl to be thinking of others! Look at Ethan's 'happy smile'---you made him so happy!"

Personal example: We had a meeting after church last Sunday night. I asked Ellie to take Ethan (3) to play in the nursery for a few minutes since it had been a long day and he had sat so well during the service. She came back a few minutes later to tell me he had tackled a little boy in order to get the toy he wanted (SEE--told you they aren't perfect, lol!). After some time-out to think and an apology to the little boy, I asked Ethan what he should have done instead of tackling. "Ask him for a turn!" he replied. Then he went over to the little boy and said, "When you're done with that, may I have a turn?" Ethan waited for a few minutes, and the little boy moved on to something else and gave up the prized truck. :) I praised Ethan for his patience and kind words.

(2.) Model unselfish behavior

While you're teaching, role-playing, coaching, and praising, you should also be modeling unselfish behavior to your children. Very young toddlers may not "get" this, but as your children begin to mature, they will learn more from your actions than they ever do from your words or discipline.

Can I repeat that, in case you were skimming? :)

Your children learn more from your ACTIONS than they ever do from your words or discipline.

How do you respond when your little ones ask you for something while you're preoccupied? Do you sigh or mentally complain? What do you say when they want another bite of your favorite candy? Do they feel valued, appreciated, important, and cherished? Do you bless them daily with loving, patient words? Are you finding yourself disciplining over and over again---only to realize that you often fail in the same area?

If you have a harsh, authoritative parenting approach or a lazy, unsacrificial "it's all about me 'cause I'm the Mom" approach, don't be suprised when your children don't have heartfelt empathy for each other and don't want to share.

Someday I'll blog about the huge paradigm shift I experienced in my parenting between my third and fourth children. I don't have room to put it in this post. But I will say this, because I've experienced it firsthand in my own home:

Empathy, gentleness, kindness, and unselfishness are best taught by modeling.

BE what you want your children to BE!

Okay, you're saying, I get that, but what about the practical---HOW do I model unselfishness to my children?

Three ways to model unselfish behavior:

--------Verbalize: Tell your children when you're being unselfish or thinking of others. Don't mope around and expect them to just "get it"---TELL them! "Sweetheart, you go first. Mommy will think of others this time. It makes me happy to let you go first." "Little buddy, you look sad! Would you like me to take you outside and push you on the swing? It will help you feel better if I play with you when you're sad." "Honey, would you like a bite of Mommy's treat? I like to share my special things with you because sharing makes us both happy!"

My older children will often not take a bite of their food at mealtime until I sit down and take my first bite. They learned this by my verbalization that they were often on seconds before Mommy even took a bite. :) I don't ask or expect them to wait, but I love the unselfishness expressed by their patience. I could make them wait for me, but then it would be forced and not heartfelt kindness.

---------Praise: Openly praise your husband (or wife) in front of your children. "Daddy is so unselfish! He's thinking of others by stopping to get you ice cream even though he doesn't care for any." "Mommy has worked SO unselfishly today, teaching and serving you. Why don't you give her a giant hug and say thank you, Mommy?" "That's the last piece of chicken and even though he's still hungry, your Daddy thought of you and saved it for you! Thank you, Daddy!"

---------Serve: When you're tired, when there's three spilled drinks in one meal, when a little one needs you for the third time in a row and it's 2 am, when you can't potty alone, when you wish for a break, when you just don't feel like getting up one more time......SERVE. Empty yourself of you and let Jesus serve your children through you. The Savior of the world, the God of the universe, Jesus Himself gently and unselfishly washed the filthy feet of the one He already knew would betray Him. Motherhood is, at it's essence, all about servanthood. Your children will learn best how to serve others by experiencing your loving service to and for them.

In summary, in our home, we teach "taking turns" by role-playing, coaching, and praising, and we model unselfishness by verbalizing our actions, praising our spouse, and unselfishly serving our children.