Dreams, Hopes, Thoughts and Plans

The following post may be ill-advised. I’m going to write about a dream that Jonathan and I are developing for our family. We haven’t completely decided on it yet, and it has been more or less a secret. Not for much longer.

Writing about something is one of the main ways that I process it. This topic being one of the main things I have been thinking about recently, the time has come to write about it. Here goes.

Jonathan and I are thinking and praying about adopting a child from foster care.

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This idea developed in the way that a lot of plans do in our marriage. Jonathan mentioned something, I agreed, and I got to work on researching the details and the best way to carry it out. I’m obviously the planner in our family. (I kid you not, this seems to almost always be how we make major decisions. This is how we came to rent a house, get a dog, buy a house, get another dog, have a baby, and buy another house).

We have talked about adopting since before we were married, and I’ve read about adoption issues in the past, but we hadn’t discussed it recently. About a month ago, Jonathan mentioned in passing that we could adopt for Baby #2 rather than get pregnant again. “Why have another biological child when we could give a home to a child that’s already here and needs one?”

And so I began to research again. I decided pretty quickly that international adoption and domestic infant adoption weren’t for us, partly because of the expense, and partly because of the potential for ethical issues in these types of adoptions. (Especially international adoption).

Foster care adoption is not without its own ethical issues, but to me it feels the closest to finding parents for a child who needs one rather than finding a child for parents who need one.  I’ve been reading a lot, and I’ve learned a lot, especially from blogs written by and for adult adoptees. (Like these here, here and here). I’ve read some things that almost scared me off. That’s right: I’ve learned that adoption isn’t cut-and-dry, all positive happily-ever-afters. (I plan to write a post about all the things I’ve learned about adoption, and problems with the way many Christians discuss adoption, another time.)

But still I return to the idea: more than anyone else in modern society, infants and children in foster care need homes. They are truly the “least of these.” The statistics for those who age out without a family are horrifying. 

Do you ever feel like God puts an idea in your head, and then keeps pointing you to it to make sure you don’t forget about it? Rarely have I felt as strongly like God was telling me to do something as I have with this. Ever since we first began talking about it, something related to foster care or adoption has come to my attention at least once a day, without me seeking it out. One of many examples: I pulled up one of my favorite blogs earlier this evening and this post was staring at me from the front page. Alright, I get it, God.

So, yeah. This is what has been going on with us. I’m a little scared of it. I’m not sure exactly where it will take us, or when. We may decide now isn’t the time. We may decide to wait until our biological kids are grown and then to foster/adopt older children or teenagers. Who knows? What I do know is that God’s heart is here. And it’s where mine is, too.

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I Had An Easy Baby.

I had an easy baby. There. I said it.

It’s the kind of thing you don’t like to admit in a mixed group for fear of offending someone. It sounds like gloating–like someone talking about how they can eat anything they want and not gain weight. But it’s true.

Jonah has been easy from the very beginning. I only threw up once during my pregnancy. Once I got past the first trimester I felt pretty energetic. My blood pressure unexpectedly went up at around 36 weeks, but even with preeclampsia I pretty much felt fine. Even though my labor had to be induced, it only lasted about 10 hours, and I had an amazingly positive experience. I only had to push for 45 minutes.

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Jonah latched easily and nursed well from the beginning. None of us got much sleep for the first month or so, but after he started sleeping through the night at about six weeks I began to think maybe I could handle this parenting thing after all.

Jonah has turned into a real extrovert who is generally entertained whenever he’s around lots of people. He is happy at daycare during the day, happy with grandma on his days with her, and happy with us at home at night (unless he hasn’t napped–then not so much). In general, he has always been an unusually pleasant baby who seemed to not cry much and to be soothed easily when he did get upset.

As he’s become a toddler, these characteristics continue–so far. For the most part, he eats what we put in front of him. He goes to bed with a minimum amount of struggle. Even though we are starting to get into the tantrum stage, he is still remarkably sanguine most of the time. Being around Jonah is fun. (Notwithstanding the things that are just hard about toddler life.)

Though I think we were just lucky that Jonah was born a good-humored little guy, Jonathan and I have been very intentional about doing certain things in our parenting to help keep it this way. We plan our days around his sleep schedule. We don’t expect him to sit still and quiet for long periods of time in public–it’s not gonna happen anyway, and it would only end in tears for everyone involved. Jonah and I spend a lot of time outside. But I would not say that we have done anything extraordinary, or that we have some secret to share for raising a happy child that other parents don’t know.

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It sounds awful to say that having an easy baby isn’t what I expected, but it’s true. I expected parenting to be harder than it’s been so far. You don’t hear a lot about easy babies–instead, you hear the horror stories, about babies with colic who cry for hours, about babies who refuse to sleep through the night well past 12 months old, etc. I’m not sure if this is because parents with difficult babies talk about it more as a way to commiserate, but I know that, so far, parenting has been easier than I was led to believe it would be.

While it’s good to be prepared for the difficulties that may lie ahead, I think all of the negative stories do a disservice to expectant parents. Expecting to not sleep and to not be able to go anywhere for months on end is not the best way to approach a major life change. If I could give any advice to moms-to-be, it would be this: There will certainly be hard moments, but consider the possibility that life with a baby may not be as hard as you fear.

When people meet Jonah they typically have one of two responses:

  1. It’ll change when he turns 2.
  2.  Just wait till the next one!

In a way I know we are due, if things work like that. We’ll see on both counts!

Recipe of the Week: Sesame Garlic Beef Tacos

A couple of weeks ago I shared the recipe for the white chili I was making that night, and a lot of people really liked it! So from now on I am planning to post one recipe a week–whatever I happen to be cooking that I think readers will like and be interested in.

Funny story about how I came to find this fusion taco recipe: Last week at work I was preparing for a children’s event when I discovered that I had forgotten to prepare a crucial component of one of the craft activities, thereby resulting in me needing to cut out 2,450 magazine pictures in 2.5 days. Yes. That happened.

So as I was in the midst of cutting out pictures from Better Homes and Gardens I came across this recipe for sesame garlic beef tacos. I was about to cut up the page when I looked again and decided to save it instead. I made it for dinner this past Tuesday. I’m so glad that I did, because it was really, really good. And easy. Even with a crying toddler clinging to your leg.

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Here is the recipe:

Sesame Garlic Beef Tacos

These are beef tacos with a pickled slaw on top, topped with Siracha for extra heat.

Time start to finish: 30 minutes (*Note: This actually took 30 minutes, and it always takes me longer than what they say.)

  • 8 white or yellow corn tortillas (I used corn.)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stack tortillas, wrap in foil. Heat 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, brown ground beef in a large skillet. Drain fat, set aside.
  3. Add sesame oil to skillet. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds over medium heat or until lightly browned. Stir in soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, water and crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return beef to skillet, heat through.
  4. To serve, spoon beef onto tortillas. Using a slotted spoon, top with Quick Pickled Cucumbers and Slaw (below). Serve with lime wedges and Siracha for extra heat if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Quick Pickled Cucumbers and Slaw:

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tbsp. sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add 1 cup very thinly sliced cucumbers and 1 cup shredded red cabbage. Let stand 15 minutes or up to 6 hours.

1 taco: 250 calories

My whole family really liked this. I actually plan to make it again next week! (Gotta use up that whole head of cabbage now.) Next time I’m going to make it a little spicier as I thought the flavor was a little on the sweet side if you didn’t add Siracha. And I also overcooked the beef while making this due to the aforementioned crying toddler, so I’d like to see how much better it will be the second time.

Ease of making recipe while simultaneously caring for a young child: Difficulty level 1/5

If you make this, let me know how you like it!

10 Everyday Things That Are Hard to Do With a Toddler

The toddler years can be kind of hard, guys. I’m sure this is no surprise to anyone but me. As one new to this stage, I am quickly learning that toddlers are tiny tyrants who rule their parents’ lives. While I was sleeping, my sweet, easy baby became a rough-and-tumble toddler, and Jonathan and I are having to adjust how we do some basic things as a result.

Jonah is 17 months old now, and during his waking hours he rarely stops moving, making noise, being on the verge of a tantrum, or trying to get into everything within arm’s reach. He really is so much fun, but including a toddler in activities of daily living makes everything approximately twice as difficult. I wish I would have appreciated the ease with which I accomplished simple tasks while he was a baby who slept all the time.

Here are 10 things that are especially challenging:

  1. Getting ready

Little man is not a huge fan of mama not giving him undivided attention while in the shower or getting dressed for work. No matter how I try to entertain him in the mornings, nothing seems to work. He usually alternates between tugging on the bottom of my shirt and playing with trash that he grabs out of the bathroom trashcan.

2. Feeding the dogs

For some reason my child is obsessed with dog food. He likes to pick pieces up and either try to eat them or hide them in various places around the house (including in my lunch–a story for another time). Why? Who knows.

3. Going anywhere quickly

It’s surprisingly time-consuming to gather all the necessary paraphernalia that accompanies Jonah whenever we leave the house. I’m constantly going through a mental list: Diaper bag? Check. Diapers and wipes? Check. Extra outfit? Check. Sippy cup? Check. Child wearing appropriate clothing and shoes? Check.

4. Walking

Jonah, we can’t walk in the street! We can’t walk in the neighbors’ yard! We can’t walk in front of cars! I’m sorry you’re upset, but mama has to pick you up to keep you from getting killed. Ugh, you’re so heavy.

5. Using the dishwasher

If it were up to him Jonah would happily play with all of the knives from the dishwasher. So opening this is pretty much no-go while he is awake.

6. Using the bathroom

When mama goes to the bathroom Jonah goes to the bathroom, too. And throws everything in the bathtub, and takes everything out of the bathroom cabinets…

 7. Doing any errand that doesn’t involve a drive-through

Every parent has probably experienced this: The overtired little one is finally asleep in the car, but you have to get out of the car to get something from inside a store. What are you supposed to do?

8. Eating in a restaurant

You know what Jonah is not a fan of? Sitting still and quiet in a high chair and waiting around for food.

9. Eating in general

You know what Jonah is also not a fan of? When you are eating something that he wants. And he’ll let you know it. “Mine!” “Mine!” “More!” And don’t even think about giving him something that he doesn’t want. He sucks the flavor off it, takes it out of his mouth and throws it on the ground.

10. 4:00-7:00 pm

These are the witching hours on days when good naps have not happened. It’s too late to take a nap, too early for bedtime, so Jonah says to himself, “Why, I think I’ll just cry on and off for two hours. How does that sound, everyone?”

But…look at this face.

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Even though navigating everyday life with my son comes with its fair share of challenges, my heart wants to burst with love whenever I look at him. And that makes it all worth it.

Working Moms: Where Are You?

Here’s something I’ve been wondering for a while: Where are all the working moms? Regular readers know that I am a full-time working mom of a toddler. Other than a 3-month maternity leave, I’ve worked since my son was born. Statistics say that I am one of many, many working moms of young children in America: 64 percent of women with children under age 6 work or are actively looking for work, and 70 percent of those work full time.

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Since this is the case, why do I only know a handful of other full-time working moms, either in real life or virtually? Most moms I know either stay home or work part-time. Maybe this has something to do with my immediate context in the South, where “traditional” families are perhaps more common than in other parts of the country. And I read a lot of mommy blogs, which tend to be written by SAHMs. Maybe most full-time working moms don’t have time to blog.

Perhaps this is a leftover element from my younger years, but there is something about being different from most people around me that makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong, or that I’m not privy to some secret that others share. I find it annoying that staying home still seems to be what is considered normal for moms of young children, even though, as the statistic I discussed above indicates, working is now actually more common. You wouldn’t know it. I would like to take Jonah to a toddler storytime at the library, but when do you think they are? Weekday mornings. I joined a toddler playgroup Meetup, but when do they always want to meet? Weekday mornings. Moms’ bible studies? You guessed it: Weekday mornings. I. AM. A. BIT. OVER. IT.

Me working full time is what works for my family at this point–it’s not really optional. However, it’s what makes me happy, too, though I won’t lie and say I haven’t occasionally felt envious of those who get to stay home. Overall though, I get a strong sense of satisfaction from my job. I like making my own money. I’m proud of myself and what I do, both at work and at home. I like the example that I’m giving my son of a strong, accomplished woman. Another reason to be glad that I work: Recent studies show strong, long-term benefits for adult children of working mothers.

But really: Where are the working moms? Let’s be friends!

How Yoga Helped Me Take Myself Seriously

It all started with a Groupon.

About two months ago I began doing yoga. I’ve always wanted to try it, but all the studios I had looked at were pretty expensive, and as the working mother of a toddler I didn’t see how I had the time. At the beginning of March Jonathan found a Groupon for a local studio and suggested that we buy it, and I agreed.

I started going to classes and was immediately hooked. The combination of pushing my body outside of its comfort zone plus mindfulness and proper breathing did wonders for me physically. I felt better.

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public domain image via pexels.com

Soon I noticed that something strange was happening. During and after class, I began to have lots and lots of ideas to write about. I’ve enjoyed writing for a long time, but have always been very much a slave to inspiration, meaning that I would only write when I had a great idea–which wasn’t often. But once I started doing yoga, the ideas just started flooding into my mind. Yoga inspired me, and I started writing multiple times a week. I haven’t stopped yet.

Then, I got the crazy idea that someone else might want to read what I was writing, and that they might even pay me for it. Why not submit some posts to some other websites and see what happens, right? Can’t hurt. And two weeks later, I had five posts featured on BlogHer, including one I was paid for, and two accepted for publication on YourTango and Scary Mommy.

I think yoga has inspired me to write in three ways: 1) I am actually exercising on a regular basis, which benefits my body and mind, 2) the mindfulness that is a part of yoga practice helps me to clear my head and focus on my breathing, so when I do begin to think of other things again the ideas flow freely, and 3) yoga and writing are both things that I am doing only for myself. They are mine–not part of my roles as wife, daughter, mom, employee, just Holly.

I really think this is the crux of the whole issue: When I started taking care of myself in one way it enabled me to take care of myself in other ways, too. When I started believing that my writing was worth taking seriously, I found out that other people thought so, too. And that’s an empowering thing.

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public domain image via pexels.com

As women, we seem to have a tendency to discount our gifts. Maybe you have a little hobby that you dabble in now and then but you don’t think that it’s worth showing to other people. Or you downplay your strengths at work in order to not seem pushy or like you’re showing off. And this benefits nobody. It doesn’t help the people who would benefit from your gift, and it certainly doesn’t help you.

So I guess the moral of this story is to find whatever it is that inspires you, and make time for it. Don’t be afraid of the gifts that you have. Embrace them, and find others that do, too. Make yourself a priority. Take yourself seriously. And try yoga–it’s the best.

The Real Reason Parents Are Always So Tired

A question for the ages: Why am I always exhausted?

Seriously. Every night if I don’t have an extra cup of coffee/can of diet coke after Jonah is asleep, I’m nodding off on the couch by 9 pm (usually in full makeup/contacts/without brushing my teeth). I don’t really want to admit the amount of caffeine I am currently consuming in a day, lest you warn me that I’m permanently damaging my body.

Now granted, I do wake up early in the morning. Jonah is normally up around 6:00 am. But this doesn’t really explain anything, because 9 pm to 6 am is plenty of sleep. Jonathan and I are actually fortunate because Jonah is a great sleeper who hasn’t woken up in the night on a regular basis for over a year now.

So there’s no obvious reason for it. I’m just…exhausted. Like this guy.

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public domain image via pexels.com

I know I’m not the only one. It’s something of a badge of honor among parents of young children to talk about how tired we are. But barring extraordinary circumstances, like a child up in the night, why is this, exactly?

I think I’ve figured it out. By the time I get to the end of the day, I’ve juggled the following responsibilities: feeding Jonah. playing with him. getting him dressed for the day. feeding the dogs. working (and all of the mental energy that entails). coming home. feeding Jonah again. feeding myself. playing with Jonah. giving him a bath. reading to him. putting him to bed. cleaning up. playing with the dogs. feeding the dogs.

No wonder I’m tired!

(In case you’re wondering, Jonathan has an equally long, different, list.)

I think as parents of young children, we have so much on our plates on any given day that by the time we get to the end of the day, we’ve just about reached our limit and have to shut down. Even if we did get enough sleep the night before. Really. Do not pass go, do not collect $200–your energy for the day stops here, whether you want it to or not.

I figure that as our child(ren) get older, my daily limit will keep inching back, little by little. Maybe someday I will consume less caffeine and go to bed a little later. I think by the time Jonah is 18 I may only be drinking two cups of coffee a day, and I may even go to bed at 10:30 with no problems. A girl can dream, right?

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Are you tired? Why?