Monday, September 28, 2015

confessions

Occasionally, I feel the need to share confessions for the entire earth to read (in theory), just in case someone out there thinks I'm cool or a good wife or a good mother, or even a good person in general.

Here we go...

1. My sweet and perfect little boys poured an entire tub of cat food onto our back deck yesterday, and I about lost it. (While trekking through the kitchen, they dropped a few pieces at a time with each trip from the storage tub in the garage to the back. Grand total on the kitchen floor: 2 cups. I told them to clean up every bit of it (unreasonable, considering half of it was stuck in the cracks between boards of the deck). When they got distracted and started sweeping the concrete below the deck, then started catching bugs, I was so full of anger and annoyance I had to force myself back inside to take a "moment" to get myself together. It was not a pretty Tuesday afternoon.

2. Our cat was probably thrilled with the boys' activities, because it has been weeks since someone actually took the time to put cat food in his bowl on the deck. (He is usually forced to a life hacking it in the woods or bending his head awkwardly into the rubbermaid where the food is kept in the garage. Poor Banjo has dropped significantly on the list of "important inhabitants" in the Lotz household.

3. I have eaten warmed cookie dough with ice cream and chocolate syrup on top as a lunch dessert every day for the last 6 days (at the very least).

4. No one has ever accused me of having a clean house. No one. It might (sometimes) be "picked up," but it has never even sniffed the term "clean" (unless Brad and I go out of town for a bit and my mom sneaks in and cleans, probably because she is appalled).

5. I have had one million thoughts in my head to write about but only one hand to write with, as Oaklee prefers being snuggled, and I'm not going to deny her of that just yet.

6. On a similar note, I am a terrible mom because I allow her to sleep on my chest in the night. (Co-sleeping for the win. I can't help it. I like sleep and she likes to snuggle.)

7. I have, in fact, resented my husband for 1) placing a baby inside of me and forcing me to be pregnant, then endure labor (which wasn't even that bad); and 2) not being able to breastfeed a baby so she didn't need to be virtually attached to me 24/7. I'm working past it now.

8. One of our children is having some serious meltdowns lately. He will remain nameless.

9. I would hate for anyone to see my google history. Not that I'm looking up things that I should not be looking up, but more because I have been having some pretty odd questions about life, babies, toddlers, child development, etc.

10. Oaklee grunts more than a pug. For real.

11. Air fresheners are covering a multitude of sins in this house.

12. I have had to have a fake conversation between my irrational self and my rational self regarding the furniture in our house. Our couches are getting old, stained and smelly (oh-so-smally), and my irrational self would love to go buy new ones. However, my rational self has to intercede and talk irrational self out of doing so because these tiny humans would destroy new couches almost immediately.

13. A minivan is calling my name. I am now excited about looking for a minivan. I actually drool and imagine a more enjoyable and less cluttered life in my future when one drives by me. Yes, I am coveting minivans. I don't even know myself anymore.

I must leave you there. My cuddle-monster needs to be reaffirmed that she is loved.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A birthday post

A quick update for you...(typing on my phone with only my thumb so give me a little grace).

I am at the D6 Conference in Louisville. 

We rode here in a rented 2015 minivan. 

Jen Hatmaker is here, too, and I am now her BFF. No, actually we've never met. I don't even know if I want to meet her in person, because I'm awkward enough in normal life without someone's fame and general awesomeness hovering over me to steal my words and delete any trace of knowledge and wit from my brain.

I'll just admire from afar. (Your creep-o-meter register is jumping off the charts right now, I'm sure.)

It's my birthday, and I'm avoiding the magnifying mirror in the hotel bathroom like the plague. Who even uses those things? Probably the same type of person who enjoys watching people break femurs in football games or that weird channel on TV that shows surgeons making initial cuts into skin for heart surgeries. Gross. 

This hotel has plentiful pillows, cable and A/C for which I won't be billed. That means I may or may not actually make it out of my room to attend all sessions of the conference. (Oaklee needs to nurse, you know, and Property Brothers may conveniently be scheduled to air while she does so). 

However, I did just attend a session in which the speaker said boys' development leads them to act extra lovingly beginning around age 5. That means there is HOPE for those of us with boys age 4 and younger. If hope for crazy families is a constant theme, I need to attend all sessions. 

Also, Clementine's visa interview went well yesterday, meaning we are officially STUCK in the adoption process while DRC specifies when and how to issue Exit Letters gain.(Two-year anniversary of the suspension is next Friday. This is continual heartbreak.) 

I am asking for a minivan for my birthday. New lifetime low. 

Carry on. Pray for Clementine. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

on problem-solving

Before we get into the meat of this post, please let me throw out this disclaimer: Kids are sinners. Your kids are sinners. My kids are sinners. They make mistakes. They often have terrible attitudes. They have tempers. They are not angels. In fact, they are children of the devil. (Think I'm being harsh? Check John 8:44. The reality of this shocked me the first time I made the connection, but it shouldn't have.)

Furthermore, I make mistakes in parenting like it's my job. Too bad no one will pay me for it.

That said, I have been exceedingly grateful for parenting hints I've gained through experience, older moms, my favorite parenting book, Don't Make Me Count to Three, and one of those mom's groups I used to regard as a pathetic excuse for moms to ditch their kids for an hour. (Please forgive me for my excessively judgmental attitudes on certain topics of motherhood. I just had no idea these groups could be helpful. When done right, they ARE!)

But let's get back to my favorite parenting book. And no, the book's publishers are not paying me to mention this book over and over (but maybe they should be paying me, because I mention it all the time). It's just that it's so practical and heart-directed without being reduced to behaviorist techniques and procedures. And it cuts to the chase without a ton of discussion about WHY it's important to train our kids with a heart orientation and biblical concepts. It assumes that we view that as important without theoretical rhetoric, which I appreciate because I wouldn't have bought the book without the foreknowledge that training my children from the inside out is important.

It's not that I'm against philosophical inquiry and discussion. I just don't have time for it right now. (I am operating with one usable hand, half a brain, and no spare time these days.)

I need practicality. I need something that can change a situation RIGHT NOW without a crazy change in every part of every daily process. (That said, it's not a magical one-two punch that easily fights bad behavior. It does require some learning and investigation into biblical truths, and it will not automatically create angels out of devilish children. If you know us in person, you can see clearly that hasn't happened for us.)

Disclaimers aside, here's a nugget I gathered from the book that is changing our household, and it's something that I pray continually changes our hearts. I also hope that it can help you if you are struggling in the same areas in which we struggle.

These boys are now old enough to have strong opinions, to have ideas about what they think we should do as a family or what they should do with their toys or who should be able to choose a movie before bedtime.

Don't they look like angels, though? Photo by Ziegler Photography.

Opinions get tricky. Brody might think they should play soccer with a ball, while Brecken thinks they should play basketball with the same ball (true scenario this morning). Fighting may ensue (also a true scenario from this morning). Internal temperatures my rise, blood may boil, and voice volume may rise (and that might not even include what the boys are experiencing).

When I notice that temperatures are rising and tempers are about to flare (or have already flared), I have a few tools in my pocket, and they are usually in the form of questions (I originally alluded to this here.):

"Brody, can you try to think of a good plan to solve this problem?" We have had this discussion before, and if he is having trouble thinking of a few possible solutions, I can help him out with options we've previously brainstormed. BUT, he is getting better about coming up with possibilities on his own.

In the scenario mentioned above, for example, we talk about the possibility of telling Brecken that he can play with the ball in two minutes, or they can play soccer for two minutes, then basketball for two minutes. Another possibility is for Brody to offer to help Brecken find another ball to play with. (Ref: Ephesians 4:31-32: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.")

Another possible question: "Brecken, are you thinking of what would make Brody happy in this situation, or are you only thinking of yourself?" I try to give time to answer, but I sometimes just dive right into the meat: "If you aren't considering others, you are being selfish. God tells us to value others above ourselves."

Neither of the above questions are magic wands, spreading fairy dust on little gremlins to turn them into princes and automatically making everything dreamy. However, the questions DO make our boys think about their motives for doing things, and they DO introduce biblical terms into everyday scenarios that they can understand.

The questioning approach doesn't ALWAYS work perfectly, but more often than not, it--at the very least--provides a better solution than the norm of screaming at one another (possibly yelling, hitting, and the most deplorable of all, biting).

Lastly, it buys me some time. (What mom doesn't like the sound of that?) Instead of dealing with every little disagreement and tiffle that takes place in a 24-hour period (approximately 2,731 of these happen in our house daily), the ball is in their court most of the time, unless they just cannot figure it out and I have to intervene.

They have tools to use to solve problems and work through disagreements on their own, and they have ways to view problems without exclusively thinking, "Me me me. Mine mine mine."

And yes, that buys me some extra time in my daily life, which I definitely need now that there's a tiny human in the house who thinks she should be held 24/7.

However, it also sets them up to be good brothers, thoughtful friends to others, considerate sons and students, and obedient followers of Christ.

In fact, Brad and I are seeing the fruits of our efforts in helping them ask these questions. One of the best sights in the world is when your kids actually "get it" after you've talked and taught through concepts for a long time. Without an intervention, one of them might automatically (magically?) respond to a request for a toy with, "Brody, you can have this toy in two minutes."

And in that magical moment, multitudes of angelic voices sing all around you to celebrate your parenting skills. (Five seconds later that same child might be biting someone. But hey, you had that one moment of glory!)

Once again, I'm not a parenting expert in any way, but I feel somewhat obligated to share what is working for us in hopes that it can help others who are tired of dealing with fighting and selfish behaviors. Now if we could just find a way to help adults learn this concept...

Monday, September 7, 2015

Oaklee Scout

I'm back with a quick minute to talk about Oaklee's arrival.

(I think she's pretty perfect, but I realize I may be biased.)

Her birth: The easiest thing ever. Seriously, it was a walk in the park on a breezy day compared to Brecken's entry into a tornado of activity and thunderclouds overhead.

I was induced, so I got a fairly nice night of sleep on Sunday, August 23rd. (Fairly nice sleep is as good as it gets when you're full term.) We got up early, checked email, then got ready to head to the hospital. My parents came to stay with the boys, take Brody to preschool, and then bring Brecken in to say hi before Baby Sister came.

We stopped off to get Brad a good cup of coffee, checked into the hospital by 7:30, and were all ready to go by 8 am. My main nurse happened to be a girl we've met a few times before through mutual friends but didn't really know all that well. (Due to the nature of our hospital visit, she now knows nearly every part of my body...) She and another nurse were the sweetest things...I am not sure that hospital care gets much better!

I was already dilated to a four or five and almost entirely effaced, so this was going to be a pretty smooth process, it seemed.

And it was.

First came the Pitocin through a drip bag. That began around 10 am or so, after I'd had some fluids. Next came the epidural. My doctor wanted me to get the epidural pretty quickly after getting the Pitocin and before she broke my water because she thought I'd go quickly.

It's a good thing she thought ahead.

She broke my water around 11:45, and by 12:30 when the nurse asked if I was feeling any pressure I said, "Yes, maybe a little."

"Ok," she said after checking me. "You're ready. Let's get your doctor back here. It's time to push."

I pushed about five times with only two nurses and a surgical tech in the room, then my doctor came in and I pushed a couple more times. Then Oaklee was here.

It was the easiest thing ever.

I didn't feel a thing, and there was no stress or drama involved, as there was with Brecken. With his delivery, there were about 20 nurses, a NICU doctor and crew, the on-duty OB/GYN (who I also happened to know), and about five others whose roles I didn't even know (They might have been janitors, for all I know). I had been in the hospital for 10 days, my labor was stopped with medicine on that 10th day, then sped up with Pitocin when they realized I had an infection (fever and chills), and the anesthesiologist was later than I would've liked. I also felt like I was pushing for the sake of his little life, because they wanted no stress put on his head whatsoever (which led to a complete episiotomy...which then led to a longer recovery). Then he spent 5 weeks in the NICU, so I went home without him and pumped and pumped and pumped so he could be fed through a tube, then eventually through a bottle. I then went back to work while he spent time in the NICU (nothing much I could do for him while he was there). I even attempted to coach some volleyball with part of my brain and all of my heart missing. (A look at the preemie life here and here.)

When he came home I pumped, then bottle-fed, which means a normal feeding took about 2 hours. At that point, I attempted to coach volleyball with half a brain. It was so "neat."

He got shots to prevent RSV, several checkups, extra eye tests, and developmental screenings.

Aside from her thinking she is starving half of the time, Oaklee just chills and groans happily. If I would have known birth was usually this easy I might have wanted to do it again sooner after having Brecken. Or maybe not. We will never know.

And after a successful and easy entrance into our family (finally), I'd say we are done. (A post about the crazy ways our children have entered our lives here.)

Now just to get Clementine HOME.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

the diagnosis details

Clearly, we have been a bit busy over the last week. Little Oaklee is doing well. Her brothers LOVE her, except--of course--when she needs my attention and Daddy's not home and their little worlds crash around them a bit.

I'm here to share an update on Clementine's health. I don't have much, but after learning last week (details here) that her swollen throat led to a diagnosis of TB, I did get a bit more information about what we were dealing with.

While the TB caught us off guard and made us yearn to have her here to care for her, I can't say that the diagnosis overwhelmed me with worry. If I have learned anything in the last 2+ years of this adoption and the difficult one before it, it's that worry fixes absolutely nothing. And, yes, it might have actually taken me 2+ years to actually get that through my scull. Worrying has drained me and controlled my thoughts often over the course of my lifetime. While I still worry about certain things, I can say with confidence that God has shown Himself to be faithful and steadied my mind in situations that would otherwise derail me.

We received chest X-rays from our adoption agency, and I don't understand a thing about them. It looks like there is a cloud around her chest cavity, which I'm assuming is the TB (although I truly have not had time to research). I have also communicated with a few adoptive moms whose kids have had TB, either while in DRC or after coming home. One mom whose son had it while in DRC said her son responded well to treatment, probably because kids in DRC aren't often exposed to antibiotics. Another mom's son had a more difficult case, and he even came to the States with an Emergency Medical Exit Letter because of major swelling. He is doing pretty well with treatment in the States, but he is also monitored by a social worker to document his progress for the CDC.



I have contacted the CDC to ask about TB in combination with the MMR vaccine, because there is currently a measles outbreak in DRC and it's recommended that all children be vaccinated unless they have compromised immune systems. The CDC said she should not get the vaccine until her TB treatment has been initiated and stabilized, sooo...

For now, she is getting two tablets (not sure what) each morning, and after two months she will be switched to new medicine for at least four more months. If she is not treated with diligence, there is a chance the TB will become more aggressive (more resistant) and cause more permanent damage and possibly mess with the brain and other major organs). I believe Clementine's caretakers LOVE her and will treat her like their own in providing medical care. What other option do I have?

And that's all I know. Meanwhile, Brad is going to be tested to TB since he was there with her in June. (Not cool if he has any trace of it, since there's a newborn in the house and two other young kids!)