Monday, September 23, 2013

Ten Things I've Learned in Ten Years of Parenting

Luke turned ten in August.  Ten years ago, I was a 24 year old new mom who had it all figured out.  Funny.  Ten years in.  I have it less figured out that a decade ago.  As I sat and reflected over my decade of parenting, here are a few things I've learned about being a parent.

1.  All of that "stuff" you get for your first baby, most of it...isn't really helpful and is completely unnecessary.  Aside from a good carseat, some clothes, a crib (not even that for a while for us)  some diapers, and a good baby carrier, all that fancy stuff you somehow think you NEED just weighs you down.  We went ALL out for Luke, had to have EVERYTHING and have slowly learned...less truly is more.  Baby stuff quickly can take up a whole house if you let it.

2.   Baby carriers are a gift from God.  My personal favorite is the Ergo.  I can wear two at a time, donning both babies and still take the older three out for a field trip.  I can also get housework done and grocery shop more efficiently if the babies are close by and don't need to seek my attention.  Keep them close, you can't spoil them.  You'll never be sorry for holding them too much.

3. Our kids are ALWAYS listening.  Even when we think they aren't, they really are absorbing everything, our words our attitudes and our demeanor, there has been  nothing more humbling for me than parenting.  Sometimes it is like looking directly in a mirror and sometimes the image isn't pretty.

4.  Development and milestones are not a race.  Every child truly does develop and learn on their own timeline and it doesn't do any good to compare children.  We need to just let them enjoy being kids and not push our own agenda on them...childhood is supposed to be fun, we need to relax and let it be so.

5.  No matter what parenting choice I make, someone will disagree and that is okay.  Just as all children are different, so are all parents.  We all need to truly judge less and go with what works for our own family.

6.  You can't be a good parent and a lousy spouse.  When I slack off and don't pour into my marriage, it directly affects the kids.  It is true that one of the best gifts we can give our kids is a healthy relationship with their other parent.  We model for them what a relationship should look like and that is more powerful than we give it credit for.

7.  Always stop and try to see the big picture.  In a chaotic moment, things might seem like the whole world is ending, I set a timer for 20 minutes and just endure in the moment and typically 20 minutes out, I can laugh, breathe and see that in the grand scheme of things that hard moment is just a moment and I am able to see the long view and show compassion and let go of anger and frustration.

8.  My house will never be as clean as I'd like it to be and it has to be okay.  A fellow foster parent shared her motto with me, "Trading sanity for love every day" and somedays that is how it feels for me as I do like order and a clean house, but in the grand scheme, the fact that we get to play a key part in helping to shape little people and love them is far more important than a house that looks like it belongs in Better Homes and Gardens.

9.  Trust myself and trust God.  Every one wants to chime in and give advice to a struggling parent, but the truth of the matter is that there is no one right way to do any of this.  We all just have to wade through and find what works best.  We know our own kids and we know what works for them.  I often feel like I must be screwing my kids up forever, but the truth is that we make mistakes, I make a LOT of them and what is important is how we deal with those mistakes and move forward.

10.  The biggest thing I've learned, that I am JUST realizing this year, is that God didn't give me kids because he wanted me to perfect them and make them better.  He gave me kids because they are a gift.  He is using them to perfect ME and make me better.  They are a gift to me, and it isn't my job to fix them.  It is my job to allow them to mold me and make me more Christlike. My kids have taught me SO much.

Okay, I had to edit to add number 11 because it really has been life changing for me:

11.  NEVER, EVER look at the clock in the middle of the night when up with a restless child.  Keeping score and adding up lost sleep is NEVER helpful.  You can't get it back and there is nothing you can do about it, keeping tally of lost sleep won't bring it back, it just causes anxiety, you can't fret over what cannot be day we shall sleep again, right?

Above all, I have learned that these precious ones are truly His children, and each day I need to pray and hand them back over to Him.  He gives the grace for each moment, even the really ugly ones if only we'll receive it, and our kids deserve for us to extend that grace on to them.  Kids will be kids and we should expect that.  I will probably never have this all figured out as I once thought I did.  You can read every parenting book on Earth and still not have a clue.  I've read most of them and I can finally admit, I don't have it all figured out, but I sure do trust the One who does. 

What are some things you've learned since becoming a parent?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Just Another Day in Paradise

So, reality is that with five children some days are better than others. Most days have their intense moments, and I have learned to just breathe and buckle down and get it done. is one for the here's hoping that I read this one day and laugh.

After going to bed just after an argument with my dear husband over Fisher Price Little People (yes, you read that right). I was grateful for a new morning and a fresh start. I woke about two hours before the kids to get some chores done because today was a Occupational Therapy AND Physical Therapy day for our foster girl. (Trying to entertain four other children while giving my attention to baby girl and her therapist so that I can help her with exercises the rest of the week, makes me break into a sweat 24 hours in advance and have a bottle of wine chilled and ready to go.)

I digress. I went downstairs to toss a load of laundry in and stepped on about twenty pieces of mean LEGOS on the way while carrying a grossly overstuffed hamper of dirty laundry. I started the laundry and headed back upstairs to mop, get breakfast started and get dressed, and as I brushed my teeth, Jacob began to wail. Freshly dressed I picked him right up for a morning snuggle only to find that his diaper had malfunctioned and he was DRIPPING wet. Awesome. Got him changed, changed my clothes again, stripped his bed and got him in his high which point all other little Bolte children begin to emerge wanting breakfast.

Making toast for five kids with a two slice toaster (because I refuse to buy a new one because ours still works, it is THIRTEEN years has to give up someday, right?) takes me, well...until lunch. ;) SO I sent Ben outside to dump the compost and grab the mail I'd forgotten to get yesterday.

He bounces in the front door with a jar of bugs with holes poked in the top, Ben is the bug whisperer so this was nothing new. In the jar he proudly announced were not one, not two, but THREE "snowy white crickets" he'd found in his journey to the mailbox! He deemed it the best day EVER as he proudly showed them to each of the other kids. I continued to bustle around trying to get everyone fed and asked Ben to please pour his cereal.

He set the jar down. A baby child, who will remain nameless...picked the jar up.  The lid was not properly screwed on the jar, and a wild cricket chase ensued.  Said, baby, won the wild cricket chase and well...crickets ARE a delicacy in some areas of the world so I'd say this baby was simply broadening his/her horizons.

Ben sobbed, mourning the loss of ONE cricket...the other two remained in the jar...I am guessing they saw the toddlers and decided to cut their losses and stay put.  I comforted Ben, we got the lid on the jar and took the crickets to the porch for safety.  When I turned back around Jacob had removed his diaper, and proceeded to pee all over the floor I woke up early and mopped.  I grabbed him and ran to get a towel.  I was not fast enough because in a split second baby number two found the pee pool and decided to have  some fun splashing in it.

Both babies make their way to the tub, babies washed, diapered and dressed.  I remind myself to breathe.  I actually set a timer from the moment of the cricket escape.  This is my coping skill.  I set a timer for 20 minutes because what seems like it must be the Bolte Apocalypse  happens daily, and while it seems like I am in it forever, in twenty minutes, typically life looks different and things aren't so chaotic.  It helps me focus, not become overwhelmed and just buckle down.  So I am in full buckle down mode.

Therapist number one is due at any moment. I still need to get tonight's pot roast into the crockpot so it is done in time for the boys to eat before heading to our local fair to enter their prized projects. I put the babies down to play and frantically search for the aforementioned Fisher Price Little People for baby girl's therapy session.  I hear a crash.  I turn and Ben has dropped his bowl of cereal, creating an organic O's BOMB all over the table, floor, sliding glass door and stainless appliances.  The timer begins to beep.  I sit down on the floor in the cereal carnage and begin to weep.  Ben sees my distress and brings me a tissue.  I look up and he says, "Mom, don't cry over spilled milk".  We all laugh and there is a knock at the door.  I wish it were a therapist for me.  I still can't find those darn Little People.

The moral of the story:  Don't cry over spilled milk, but it is PERFECTLY acceptable to cry over an ingested cricket friend.  :)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

It Matters.

Tonight we celebrated our sweet foster daughter's first birthday. Sometimes the lack of support for our decision to foster children still catches me off guard and sucks the wind right out of my sails.

Tonight I am reminded of those who were there, and who are there. Those who make our kids a priority, all of them...treating each kid the same whether biological or not. I watched a few of my dear friends love and hold that one year old princess and I was reminded not to let those who just don't "get it" to make me overshadow those who are embracing it with us.

This fostering thing, it is hard, it is a roller coaster of emotion and activity. Appointments are many and downtime is scarce. I watched as a few close friends and family watched that sweet beauty light up as she opened gifts and was overwhelmed with gratitude that they chose HER today. They made her a priority and they celebrated the gift that she is with us and while my heart was heavy that a few immediate family members made a different decision, I know it is more important to focus on those who chose her.

We choose her. We love her as our very own, not knowing if she is here forever or just a few more months, we put our hearts on the line and though we've chosen this, our family and friends haven't. So, when a friend or family member goes out of their way to show love to her, we notice. We notice every effort made to come alongside us in this battle. We feel every prayer and appreciate each sweet gift.

When we see others loving her with abandon the way we do, it makes my heart soar. The fact that a friend calls to check in or stops by to visit knowing the enormous amount of effort it takes for me to get this brood out of the house, helping me feel not so alone, it doesn't go buy unnoticed. I don't send the thank you cards I once did, as I can barely find time to pee. But in case you ever wonder if I notice the little acts of kindness, the gifts of love or the loving support and prayer...make no mistake...I do! I notice and it matters more than you could ever know.