Can Rest be a Resolution?

2016: How did we get here?!  Happy new year!  Does anyone else feel like they blinked and the first 1/2 of the 2010s was over?  Alas, we are in the early days of another new year.  *Sigh…*

Everyone around me is either in the midst of a cleanse or made some sort of resolution involving healthy eating and/or exercise.  Positive energy and a spirit of perseverance coming your way! Whatever your resolutions are: good luck.

For me, exercise and diet are not where I struggle most.  Slowing down and remembering to breathe are where I often utterly fail.  So in some ways, diet and exercise are my enemy, but I certainly won’t be cutting out my love of cruciferous veggies, yoga, or running this year.  Rather, my husband and I have agreed to prioritize restorative practices in an effort to re-energize our bodies and minds.

For us that can mean a few different things, but one of them is the power of day trips! A day of adventure and getting out of our typical routine is a practice we have found to be one of the most mentally refreshing activities we do together.  We have resolved to do at least one “adventure day” every month.  We used to rock at regularly planning day trip but fell out of the habit this past year. Instead, we allowed work take over our entire beings.  As a result, we have spent much of the past year in some never-ending and unnecessary endurance test of long hours and weeks.  Needless to say, we are burnt out.  Vacations should not be viewed as a luxury.  They are a necessity, people!  Even if they are the stay-cation variety!  So while we are hoping to put a real vacation on the calendar very soon, in the interim, day trips it will be!

In the spirit of our resolution, we started the year off with a New Year’s day trip adventure snow shoeing in the mountains.  It was a wonderful day of clear sunny skies, beautiful mountain views, deep powdery snow, and a meandering scenic drive home.  All in all,  the perfect winter day trip.

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The second facet of our resolutions are restorative weekends!  After an incredibly over-scheduled and exhausting year and holiday season in general, we are determined to invest in and even schedule some relaxation time!  Sure, weekends must include necessary evils like some housework, laundry, etc. but even though there is always something that could be done, we aren’t committed to not over-doing our weekend chore loads.  We want to leave mornings wide open for dog-walks or breakfasts and afternoons available for such pressing tasks as reading, gentle old-lady style yoga, documentary watching, cooking some delicious simmering-something for dinner, or even napping!  Life will undoubtedly get in the way some weekends, but we are promising to prioritize restful weekends and limit scheduled events!  Sign me up for a whole lot of nothing and I will be a happy, well-rested girl!

And now, our final resolution….  As a self proclaimed foodie who loves to cook, this one kind of kills me.  In keeping with the prioritization of restful practices theme, I am not going to kill myself over weeknight meals.  I am trying to stick to simple 15-30 minute meals that are easy to prep and easy to clean-up.   (I will be posting some of my easy weeknight go-to recipes in the coming weeks, so watch out for those.)

The second prong to this resolution is if I get home late, am exhausted, or don’t feel like cooking, that is OK.  Although it goes against every grain in my body to give in to the urge to rest rather than make the meal I had planned, I need to learn that sometimes freezer pizza or takeout is just what the doctor ordered.  Therefore, if I need a break from mid-week dinner prep for whatever reason, I am resolved to take it!

The third and final prong to is that regardless of my weeknight meal schedule, Tim and I have decided that Friday nights are fun food nights.  During the work week and honestly most of the time, we eat fairly healthy meals (much to Tim’s dismay), but friday nights will be reserved for something fun.  Either an at-home splurge meal like extra cheesy pizza, or something along the lines of Chinese take-out, one of the ridiculously delicious gourmet burger establishments, the authentic Neapolitan pizza joint down the street, etc. This will keep my husband happy, me sane, and also give us a nice easy opportunity to catch up at the end of the week.  (Since I am writing this on a Friday afternoon with a relatively empty stomach, I am pretty psyched to put this “third prong” into action TONIGHT!)

So while to me this post feels like way too much of an over-share, busyness has become such a status symbol that I am pumping the brakes on the exhaustion that ensues.  This American race to to stay-ahead/get-ahead is an unsustainable pace.  Look at Europe!  They have known this for years!  In my opinion, if you feel like you have to have a quad-shot americano to wake up in the morning, you should probably take a hard look at your lifestyle.

So after reflection and exhaustion, I am listening to my body and it says to slooooww doooowwn.  As such, I am challenging myself to incorporate more simplicity and restful-ness in my life this year!  Anyone else feeling the need for something similar?

Thankgiving amidst waiting

Life is a never ending period of waiting and preparing for what is to come.  Adoption epitomizes this seemingly endless prepare and wait cycle for adoptive families….  I call our adoption process “The Hurrry Up and Wait Dance.”  Update this, update that, wait for a match, wait for a referral, wait for a court date, wait to travel, wait for visas, wait, wait, wait….  I don’t know how many times I have said, “Surely by next ________ we will have a referral/traveled/our child home/etc.”  And then the following month/holiday season/year/etc. rolls around and we are still waiting.

Over on the Sparrow Fund Blog, Stephanie Smit wrote about her experiences on the topic and learning to trust God’s timing and understand that no part of this process is within your control.

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The other side of the adoption waiting game coin are of course the children waiting, praying, hoping for a family of their own.  A quirky family of their own to sit around the table and eat mashed potatoes with.  Please read Mary Lee’s beautiful narrative in the Huffington Post on her journey as a teen from foster care to adoption.  You can find the piece here.

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Practicing gratitude and recognizing how incredibly blessed we have been this year – even if things don’t look as we had expected.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Adoption from the eyes of Adoptees

November is National Adoption Month. So each week for the month of November, I be posting some adoption related info, links, books, and shouting from the rooftops that our beautiful world sadly has many beautiful children in it without families!

The familiar adoption narrative is almost always told through the eyes of the adoptive parents.  These narratives often focus on the positive and redemptive aspects of adoption experience, as seen through the parents eyes.  We rarely hear the adoption story through a lens of loss, confusion, frustration, heartache, and even anger that are experienced by the adoptee.  Many adoptees learn to “parrot” the redemptive,positive adoption narrative as told by their parents since it seems to be the more accepted perspective and also because this is the narrative their adoptive parents prefer to hear.

Especially for children adopted internationally, their entire wold was virtually flipped upside down when they were adopted so their perspective on the adoption experience is typically one of fear, unfamiliarity, and confusion.  In other words, the opposite of their adoptive family who are overjoyed after waiting and waiting to bring this child home.  These “homecoming” stories however are not where the experience of adoption end for the adoptees.

Psychologists, therapists, and counselors will all tell you that hushing of the adoptee is the wrong way to approach the adoption narrative. Children and adult adoptees alike should be free to voice their experience and their parents should be there to help facilitate and welcome those discussions, even if they are painful for both parent and child.  As Patty Cogen states in her book Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, “what is mentionable, is manageable.”  Parents and communities need to open our minds to hearing about the adoption experience through another lens.  This is how the healing process can begin for the adoptee, and adoptive parent’s fears that talking about it will make it worse are completely false.  The fact is that having the airwaves open for these discussions will help the child to feel more, not less, connected to their adopted family.  They will feel more understood and accepted by their adoptive family, which is why these discussions are such an integral part of the process!

You don’t have to take my word for it, even though I could talk your ear off on the subject for hours, but I won’t…  BUT if you want to read more check out the book referenced above or this one!

Hearing about the adoption experience through the eyes of adoptees shouldn’t be something new, but unfortunately, theirs is often not the version of the story we hear.  If we as communities, families, & churches are going to throw our support at friends and family who decide to adopt, then we, as a community, should also be listening to the adoptee’s stories and learning what we can do to support them through their healing process and beyond.

Now, I will step down from my soapbox, but please lets hear adoptees voices during National Adoption Month!  #flipthescript on adoption!

See what they have are saying in some of the video clips below…

Or view the extended version of the above video here.

 

World Adoption Day

Thats right, it’s World Adoption Day.  Social media is full of links, stories, and adoption love.  Check out #worldadoptionday on Twitter and Instagram!

What is it?  Check out why the founder of Adopt Together, Hank Fortener, says we need #WorldAdoptionDay

Then check out this excellent post written by Kristen Howerton from Rage Against the Mini Van about starting a family through adoption: Always thought about adopting?  Here’s why you should do it FIRST

The Time I gave out “Condoms” on Halloween

You know those things in life that at the time feel mortifying, but as time passes, you begin to see the humor in them? For me, this was one of those times…

I will be honest. I don’t put all that much thought into what candy we give out on Halloween. I just insist that if its chocolate, it has to be ethically traded chocolate. Not hard to find. My husband thinks my insistence on this for Halloween is a bit over the top, while I think not doing it is hypocritical, since its all we buy otherwise.

A couple nights before the holiday, I bought a couple of bags of Halloween chocolate squares from a Fair Trade brand. Sure, its a little more expensive, but we really don’t get many trick-or-treaters and spending a few dollars more on Halloween candy isn’t going to break the bank. I think it actually tastes better than some of the cloyingly sweet cheaper options.

Halloween night, we were heading to a party at my parent’s house and wouldn’t be home to pass out candy. So I planned to dump the bags of chocolate in a bowl, turn on the porch light, and leave the bowl of candy on the stoop. We were in the process of rushing out the door (late as usual), but when Tim saw me holding the bowl of candy he said, “Are those condoms?!”

What is he talking about? I began scanning the ground for something that might look like a condom, but he provided the clarification himself. “Is that the candy? It looks like we are giving out condoms to elementary school kids.” He looks at me as if trying to ascertain whether or not I have gone off the deep end and decided to make some inappropriate safe sex advocacy statement to young, costumed children.

I never would have thought of that when looking at the plastic wrapped chocolate squares, but as soon as he mentioned it, I couldn’t get past their resemblance to condom wrappers. Embarrassed, I encouraged him to try one in an attempt prove that they are in-fact chocolate.

He picked one up to verify that it is indeed not a condom and shook his head. He concluded, “Every parent is going to look at that bowl and think ‘What the heck?!’”

I lamely tried to defend myself with some stupid statement about Fair Trade candy having fewer options and that “kids don’t care – candy is candy.”

Tim whole-heartedly disagreed.

At this point, we were extra late, so I plopped the bowl full of condoms – I mean candy – on the front porch and left.

When we got home, my supposedly indiscriminate, candy-loving trick-or-treaters had failed me. Even kids didn’t want my “condom candy.” The bowl was still completely full. Oops.

Next year, I am buying boxes of Nerds. Forget about chocolate. Lesson learned.

Tim: 1 point

Maria: 0 points

The not so Unicorn Mom – Part 3

After spending a several months in one of the more high-end neighborhoods Seattle, I started to notice something about the moms there… An overwhelming level of perfection.

This is the 3rd and final post of the series.

You can find part 1  here.

And part 2, here

All lifestyle decisions have some sort of inevitable trade-off. Giving up one thing in order to have another. For example, giving up time with your kids in favor of a career. Or, staying home with kids instead of having that second source of income.

For most of the families on “the hill,” in truth, there is no second stream of income necessary. For these primarily Ivy-League educated executives, doctors, lawyers, and business owners one income is more than sufficient to support a family. Even when a 2 bedroom, 100 year old, not-been-renovated-since-the-70s house costs over $800k, most of these families could still make ends meet with one income source. However, in order to afford the lifestyle of perfection that permeates the area and sets a new standard of “normal,” most families opt for both parents to work and I don’t mean part time. I mean full blown, high-powered careers.

While you would never know that many of these not-so- unicorn moms have had to give anything up for their lifestyle, I think they have. They have given up countless hours with their families and the opportunity to be there for their kids through life’s most mundane – but important – moments. The rat race of perfection that most of these households seek stretches their time and efforts thin. Everything from the elaborateness of your family vacation to the premier-ness of your child’s sports team is a competition. If someone were to invent some sort of point system, that would almost be better – at least people would know if they were winning.

I can’t help but doubt the sustainability of this lifestyle. I’m not referring to environmental sustainability here but long-term lifestyle sustainability with regards to time and effort. None of these families need new cars every 2 years, designer clothes, or professional interior design services. Nor do most of them truly need housekeepers, gardeners, or the like.

“Entitlement” is a word that is thrown around a lot these days – usually directed at seemingly spoiled teens or anyone who feels they are deserving of something that in someone else’s mind they didn’t earn.  I am starting to think the concept of “entitlement” is more widespread and does not exclude the highly educated or the economically privileged from its grasp. The desire to “have it all” is too powerful. Whether this manifests itself as desiring a powerful career and a family or desiring to maintains a certain lifestyle, this “have it all” mentality is pervasive.

When do you look in the mirror and say “we have enough,” or “we don’t need this?” It’s a challenging thing to have perspective on when everyone around you seemingly has (or appears to have) the same things or more. This is not an environment conducive to making cuts or determining what is truly necessary. People feel entitled to have the same lifestyle and luxuries that those around them have, without giving the burden or impact this lifestyle places on their family a second thought.

So rather than envying these not-so-unicorn moms, I will be grateful for what I have been blessed with. I choose to sacrifice perfection for quality time with my husband and my someday-children. In the end, my meadow of brown grass, pile of unfolded laundry, and mismatched dining room chairs beat competing in an exhausting and un-win-able perfection contest any day.

Sometimes we all need to step back, widen our scope, and take in a little perspective to see how incredibly fortunate we are.

The not so Unicorn Mom – Part 2

After spending a several months in one of the more high-end neighborhoods Seattle, I started to notice something about the moms there… An overwhelming level of perfection.

Last week I posted Part 1 of this series.  You can find it here.

My friend Jen is the mom that every kid would kill to have. She whips up the most elaborately detailed Halloween costumes on her sewing machine without batting an eye. I’m pretty sure that she is missing her calling as a professional costume designer! In case that isn’t enough to convince you, Jen is never short on awesome ideas for class auction projects, bakes like a pro, and is the first to volunteer for classroom help or field trips. Jen puts her kids’ needs first, which for normal people like Jen and I requires some level of sacrifice, like settling for Levis instead of Chanel and a Prius instead of a Mercedes G-Wagon. You know, HUGE life sacrifices. 😉

Jen and her husband were renting in this neighborhood for a few years before they bought a house elsewhere. Jen laughs about volunteering in her daughters’ classrooms with some of the other moms “on the hill.” A number of times, other moms suggested that Jen run the finger-painting station because “she is just so good at it.”  While I don’t doubt Jen’s superior finger-paint table management skills, Jen is pretty sure that the other moms’ brand new Marc Jacobs blouses making contact with some paint covered kindergartener’s fingers was their primary motivator. Why someone would volunteer in a kindergarten classroom wearing designer garb is beyond me, but Jen laughed on the inside and smiled as she dutifully took her seat at the finger-paint station.

I can’t imagine volunteering and essentially saying “I’m here to help, but oh, no I won’t do that. Someone else can do that!” Don’t get me wrong, there are certain activities that I wouldn’t exactly jump with joy over and there are certainly some I would prefer over others… However, participating in your kids’ lives requires the occasional stint at the proverbial finger-painting table.

My friend Jen’s story is just one example, but I could list dozens more. Yes, I admittedly am pining after their Pinterest worthy lives – perfect houses, fashionable attire, sweet rides, etc. But, time and time again, I am seeing that this level of perfection come at the cost of participation. Missing out on your children’s childhood in favor of spending time on “just one more deal” at the office, keeping imaginary cellulite at bay with lengthy personal training sessions, or whatever else you have to do to look perfect all the time (facials, massages, manicures?? I don’t even know!!). All these important things that keep you away from your kids are why you bothered to carefully screen your au pair, right?

I am going to ask a naïve and uninformed question, but I want to know. Why bother having kids if you don’t want to spend any time with them? Was it just the next logical life step but they underestimated how much time and energy a family sucks out of you?

I fully recognize how judge-y and jealous this post sounds…. But please, please, hang in there for part 3, I am going somewhere with all of this. Promise!!