Monday, November 16, 2015

Why Cleaning My Own House Went "Off The Beam"

It's a Monday night and I am free to sit here and do as I please because my house is spotless.

You see, this summer I got a third child, a nice raise and...a cleaning lady.  It's one of the best decisions I have ever made and it was high time.   I put it off and put it off for years thinking a woman as young as me shouldn't have a cleaning lady, that that was too posh of a thing for me to ever consider before I was at least age 30 and had paid off some of my student loans.

But now?  Every other Monday, I pay dollars for someone else to give our house a reset and here is why:

1. We can afford it.
2. With three little kids, our house gets trashed, wrecked, grossified, bleh.
3. The wonderful lady who helps us accomplishes in a few hours what would take me two days.
4. Actually it would take me until eternity because I could not do it as well as she does, ever.
5. Trent and I fought for years about chores and it was so freaking not fun. We don't anymore. Poof.
6. I shoved cleaning my own house "off the beam".

Though I sure don't have much time to read these days, I did make sure to devour Jen Hatmaker's newest book, For The Love.  I tell ya, this lady.  She's a keeper.   Trent would randomly find me laughing out loud at my Nook or dripping tears onto it and just nod and say "Jen Hatmaker?"  Yup.  Sniffle sniffle ha ha.

I for sure resonated with her chapter about what things in life deserve to be "on the beam" or "off the beam", referring, of course, to a gymnast balance beam.  Here, read some of her words instead of mine...

Balance.  It's like a unicorn; we've heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven't actually seen one.  I'm beginning to think it isn't a thing. ...  No one can pull this off.  No one is pulling this off.  The women who seem to ride this unicorn only display the best parts of their stories.  Trust me.  No one can fragment her time and attention into this many segments. 

We have lost the ability to declare a job well done.  We measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy.  No matter how hard we work or excel in an area or two, it never feels like enough.  Our primary defaults are exhaustion and guilt.  Meanwhile, we have beautiful lives begging to be really lived, really enjoyed, really applauded - and it is simpler than we dare hope: we gotta unload that beam. 

You get to do this.  You have permission to examine all the tricks and decide what should stay.  What parts do you love?  What are you good at?  What brings you life? What has to stay during this season? ...  We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.  ...  Decide which parts are draining you dry.  What do you dread?  What are you including for all the wrong reasons? What parts are for approval?  Is there anything you could delegate or hand off?  Could you sacrifice a Good for a Best?  Throw out every should or should not and make ruthless cuts.  Go ahead.  Your beam is too crowded.  I know it.

My beam was too crowded.   Challenging job, three small children, a big ole jenky house, all the things that make people tell me they don't know how I do it.  So I held some auditions in my mind and soul for things that got to stay on the beam or get kicked off.

Cleaning my own house?  Bleh.  Can be delegated.  Off the beam.

Date nights and deep conversations with my husband?  Life giving.  On the beam.

Posting to this blog?  Eh, it teeter totters in priority.  Welcome on the beam when there is room.

Drinks, Chipotle burrito bowls, movies, etc with my friend Kristin?   Hell yeah.  On the beam.

Cooking elaborate homemade meals?   Baha, funny joke.  Off my beam, onto Trent's beam.  Or McDonald's beam.

Time to myself to journal, think, be still?  Sorely missed since gaining a third child.  Scooching back onto the beam.

This is a spectacularly fun exercise when you actually give it some thought, give yourself some freedom, and realize that your beam is your beam and the standards that work best for yourself and your family don't have to mirror those of other women or other families.   Why spend time trying to cram ourselves into someone else's box?  Ain't nobody got time for that.

Cleaning your own house may be the third love of your life after your husband and children.  Scrubbing, mopping and vacuuming may be a form of active meditation for you that you adore and can't do without.  It may be something that fits into your schedule totally fine and gives you a sense of worth unmatched by most other tasks.  You go girl.

Me?  My beam was always sopping wet from the rain cloud of house cleaning that hung over it nonstop and fried from the lightning bolts of fights and zingers shot between me and Trent from all the tension built up.    So I unloaded my beam.

What needs to be on your beam?  What needs to be off your beam?  What is non-negotiable vs disposable?  What does your standard for sanity and happiness need to include?  Come on, join me in imaginary leotards (ok, maybe we should skip that part) and give yourself some room to rock your own beam.  Do some high kicks, back flips, twirly arms and stick the landing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Guest Post From Trent - Permanency In Foster Care

I'm turning over the blog today to my husband, for some of his recent thoughts on this foster care journey...

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  I was adopted by two amazing parents who offered their home to me as an infant.  My older sister, also, was adopted.  We were raised in a very healthy environment where we always knew we were adopted.  Apparently, I was a loud baby (I know many readers who know me are shocked), and my sister looked desperately at my parents and begged, "can we take him back?"  My three year old sister was getting an idea that this loud, screaming baby was a permanent part of her life, and was hoping there was some way to reverse that.

In foster care, you hear the word permanency a lot.  Foster care is full of permanency plans, permanency conferences, and permanency hearings.  The word became a normal part of our vocabulary very quickly.  

In Texas, there is a one year deadline (with the ability to extend another 6 months) to complete a case for children in the foster system.  This can put the biological parents in a bind to try to complete their service plan in time.  Any setback puts their backs against a deadline.  Yet, that deadline is in place for a purpose.  Children and teens in care need permanency.  In extreme cases, being passed from home to home creates an environment that often leads to poor decisions, bad behavior and intense struggles for the child.  In better situations, these young people may have solid foster homes, but their life is still defined by a mystery of what the future holds.  Foster care is full of the word "permanency" because it matters.

Permanency is naturally built in to most other family systems.  Whether a family is built biologically, or through domestic or international adoption, the entire process is designed with a fairly obvious permanent solution in mind.  Yet foster care is inherently full of the unknown when it comes to the future.  As a foster parent, the ghost of a lack of permanency can appear in unexpected places.  It can also be the thing which people outside of foster care understand the least.

It is behind the "so when will they be YOURS?" questions.

It looms behind the rocking chair at 4 AM, whispering over a foster mama holding a screaming little girl, "you can take her back."

It kicks you in the gut with court room surprises and disappointments.

It is the culprit in the "I could never do that" comments.

It is found in the tears of another foster mom as we leave with her daughter to take her to her permanent home.

It is realizing you are in over your head, hitting the library, and researching what is best for children in a post-adoption contact agreement.

It is the shadow from which others will question your motivation, choices, and even sanity as a foster parent.

But we do this because it is important.  There are children who need permanency desperately.  We need more people helping parents get their lives back together and get their kids back.  We need more foster parents willing to wade into the water of foster care, with its lack of permanency, and offer a home (temporary or forever) for these children.   

Monday, November 2, 2015

What The Heck Is Going On With Our CPS Case

I've talked to some people lately that think our kids are already adopted.


I've talked to some other people lately that think we at least have an adoption date set.


We are entirely in limbo.  We're waiting for the judge to sign the final orders moving our kids' cases to the adoptions department of CPS, where we can begin an entirely new, though shorter, process.

Das it.

All biological parental rights have been relinquished or terminated.  We have Mediated Settlement Agreements in place for all kids outlining post-adoption contact with their first mom.  There is nothing else standing in the way of us and an adoption day but CPS itself.  Whop whop.  We've been in this limbo for the big kids since July and for Baby since September.  The good news is that all this stalling will allow Baby's case to fully catch up and the two separate cases will become one when we do get the final order to move to the adoptions unit of CPS.  We'll have one adoption day for all kids, which we much prefer.

I've talked to some people that think we are just dying for adoption day.  In a way, yes.  It'll mark the end of an exhausting process and the beginning of known permanency.  We won't have to write down medicine doses anymore and will be able to get anyone we want over to babysit.  But really?  It won't change a whole lot.  These kids won't miraculously feel more like our kids just because a judge says so.  I'm not going to instantly begin staring at my daughters with even more awe of their beauty just because I'm legally their mom.  We won't suddenly love them measurably more just because we have pieces of paper showing their last name matching ours. These are already our kids.  Maybe not to the state of Texas.  But in our hearts?  No doubt.