parenting concepts for me: grief


Sway by Naomi Ernest



Sway by Naomi Ernest

My views on grief have evolved since my teen years. I’ve learned a lot since becoming interested in adoption and pursuing a graduate degree in social work. I have some strong feelings about grief. Dan and I went to see a set of short films at our local film fest this week. The first one was simply yet abstractly about grief, and it’s still on my mind.

I used to think grief was reserved for the death of someone we love. So I was shocked to learn about the ways grief affects adopted children — even those who have not necessarily experienced the death of a birth parent or caregiver.

From the details we know of the boys’ story, we know that they’ve been uprooted from familiarity at least twice, and they will be again when we bring them into our home and culture. We fully expect they will grieve the loss of their foster family and culture. At their age, this grieving will probably be harder for them to understand and harder for us to communicate to them.

We expect their grief will show up in sleep, eating, and possibly attachment, as it does with many adopted children. We don’t know what they have been told about us, but no matter what they understand, they’re going to be very sad to lose the country they’ve had for 2.5 years and the foster family they’ve had for almost two years now. 

We also except this grief will resurface throughout their lives. Three-year-old T + E will grieve the loss of their birth family, foster family, and birth culture. Thirteen-year-old T + E will grieve the loss of their birth family, foster family, and birth culture. And 25-year-old T + E will, too. Whether they’re fully conscious of it or not, and despite how much they love us or they don’t, they’ll grieve what could have been and what they’ll never know. 

I, too, am feeling myself grieve what could have been and what I’ll never know. We (naively) set out to adopt with the belief that our child would be home before his or her first birthday. We were (and are) young, and we wanted to experience almost as many firsts as our friends get to with their babies. Instead, we’ve seen the boys walk, run, and reach developmental milestones through photos and videos.

A couple of months ago, I carefully packed up the 12- to 18-month and 18- to 24-month clothes we had for the boys. We had the foresight to buy cribs that transition nicely into toddler beds, but I’m starting to wonder if the boys will be past the weight limit for their car seats by the time they sit in them.

But here’s the thing: I’m finding I can handle wondering what could have been and what I’ll never know. I know the end result will be greater. Our prayer as we set out parenting adopted children is that they’ll feel the same.

parenting concepts for me: the river of well-being
parenting concepts for me: sad looks like mad

what else is He saying?

It has once again become very clear that God is telling us to wait. For how long? I do not know.

But what else is He saying? What else should we be doing? Specifically, how should I as a (borrowing this from a friend) stay-at-home-non-mom use my days? 

I’m going a little bit crazy over here with what I would call my lack of contribution to society and God’s kingdom. But, I think I just came across the issue… I’ve fallen into the trap of believing there are only a few ways I can, as a mid-20s-female, contribute. Mothering or working. Or some combination of those.

I constantly find myself straddling these two. I’m frequently in circles of full-time employees. They talk about projects at work, quirky coworkers, and recent business trips. Or I’m in a circle of full-time moms. They talk about potty training, summer camps, and essential oils. (Ha! A joke. We own some oils.)

No, I don’t want this to be a woe-is-me. I have made choices that have left me straddling these two groups. I’m fully aware. Fully accepting it. It’s a challenge, and I accept it. But I want this to be is a “What is God telling me to do with my time right now?” 

Should I find a full-time job? Should we become foster parents? Should we take a long-term Safe Families placement? Should we pursue a concurrent adoption? Should we pursue biological children? Should I open an Etsy shop? Should I go back for another degree or certification?

You see how all those are either related to motherhood or work? What if He’s just telling me to use my time exercising and enjoying Dan and growing my marriage and writing a few foster and adoptive home studies?

Dan and I have this conversation of how I should use my days as frequently as the waves of doubt and sadness and impatience come. We talk about it in the car, in bed at night, and in the restaurant at Trader’s Point Creamery. (Seriously.)

I’m just honestly not sure. Today, I think God might be directing me toward a little more part-time work, but generally still the stay-at-home-non-mom gig I’ve been doing. Two days ago, I was certain it was something else. I’ve opened and promptly closed an Etsy shop, for goodness sakes.

Some aspects of my faith still make me feel a bit embarrassed and confused. I know He speaks in many ways. And I know I’ve heard Him speak many times. But I have sensed direction toward a certain end result and seen those doors completely shut before me. Or I have begged for Him to make it clear and give us wisdom and make the path straight and the path has been so not straight or easy. 

Or is He providing me with multiple options that are all true and noble and right and pure? That’s another questions, isn’t it?

What I do know and understand is the “wait” part. Better than ever.


wait on the hands of God


how we save money on trips: hotels

We take trips frequently. Sometimes short and cheap. Sometimes longer and a bit more expensive. If you look at our finances from a year, I’m pretty convinced a good chunk of our money would be spent on experiences and furniture (besides adoption). The stuff that lasts, in my opinion.

Our trip-taking has evolved over time. And with new apps and new wisdom, I think we’ve gotten even better at saving a few bucks. We are not experts, and I’m okay with it. My budget motto lately has been, “Save when you can, splurge when you must.” And we must splurge on Top Chef contestant and celebrity chef restaurants like the geeks we are.

As a series, I’ll be sharing the ways we save money on hotels, transportation, activities, and food.


how to save money on hotels


So, how we save money on hotels:

+ Priceline Express deals: Priceline Negotiator worked well for a while, but we prefer Priceline Express. You tell them where you’re going and the dates, and they provided discounted rates on hotels. You don’t know the hotel, but you get the rating, general location, and amenities. There are usually several price points, saving you as much as 45% in some cases.

If you want to put in the time, open another window and use the check boxes to narrow down — or sometimes totally figure out — the hotel you’re getting. We’ve had one oh-no-moment doing this, but that was a silly error on our part.

+ Hotel Tonight: If willing to wait to the day of travel, Hotel Tonight is awesome. Hotels with available rooms opt-in to be included in the app, most frequently at discounted prices. Right now, the Hilton in our city is on there for $99 as opposed to their usual $189 rate. A resort in Maine is on there for $169 as opposed to $399.

The app is well-designed with photos, maps, ratings, amenities, and the ability to make a quick on-your-smart-phone transaction.

And as an additional perk, get $25 off your first stay with the promo code NSEITZ1!

+ Loyalty/rewards programs: Find a hotel chain or group you especially enjoy? Join their rewards program for eventual free nights and other benefits. Loyalty programs can’t usually be utilized when booking through third-party sites, but it’s worth it to try if free to join.

We like Kimpton hotels (hello, no pet fee!). By joining their loyalty program, we got free wifi, $10 in the mini bar, and access to discounted last-minute deals.

+ Rentals: Okay, not really hotels. But sometimes just as fun. We’ve only used Airbnb, but I’ve heard good things about HomeAway and VRBO, as well.

Airbnb has worked well for us in places without a lot of hotel options when we’d prefer a cabin, like the Smokey Mountains and rural Georgia. Some cities seem to have more cheaper-than-hotels options on Airbnb than others.

parenting concepts for me: sad looks like mad



Lights on the Lake by Lindsay Megahed



A concept I’ve heard more frequently lately — especially as it applies to adopted and foster children — is “when sad looks like mad.” (I think it originally comes from my buddy, Karyn Purvis.)

My little introvert self has always been quietly perceiving the roots of external actions and words of those around me. They’re saying this, but they really feel this kind-of-stuff. In kids from “hard places,” and surely many “normal” kids, sad frequently looks like mad. In me, too.

My biggest areas of sadness lately are related to the unpredictable delays and out-of-nowhere disappointments related to our adoption process. It lately seems that any bit of hope is soon met with some sort of discouraging news. (Lately? Maybe not lately. It’s just getting harder again as we get so close to the end.) Even getting an unexpected video of the boys turns quickly into the saddest reminder that they are very much out of our reach, and we have absolutely no control. This is nothing new, really.

But suddenly, I find myself inexplicably mad. Mad at Dan for… wait, I can’t remember now. I can’t remember, because my anger was precipitated by some other event that made me deeply sad. Those events usually happen during the day — emails from our agency, alerts posted by the Department of State, even rumors shared on message boards. I’m alone, I’m sad, and I keep it in.

The day passes, Dan comes home, and my sad about adoption has transformed into mad at Dan for who knows what. My sadness is being expressed by anger.

Our kids will likely do this, too. We’ve definitely seen it in our Safe Families kids. They will be sad that they have come home to a home that is not their parent’s. They don’t have the ability to put words to the sad. So they get mad at us for not letting them eat a popsicle for dinner.

I, on the other hand, do have the ability to put words to my sad. I just gotta do it. Painful as it is. Over and over again. It’s worth it to not feel this inexplicable mad. 

If this topic interests you, I recommend this video by the folks at Empowered to Connect.

Cincinnati city guide

Cincinnati, I came for your IKEA, and I stayed for your other offerings. You were lovely.


Cincinnati city guide, including Sharon Woods, Findlay Market, Hello Honey, Nada, Graeter's, 21C


Here’s what we did in a little Cincinnati city guide:

Eat

+ Hello Honey: Toasted homemade marshmallows on unique ice cream flavors. We kind of hit the desserts hard on this trip. This cute spot is in a nondescript storefront downtown. Their ice cream flavors and other homemade dessert offerings were most wonderful, though. Honey lavender ice cream, lemon meringue pie ice cream, green tea cake. You get the idea. Just go.

+ Buona Terra: Delicious gelato in a cute spot. They have crepes, too, though we did not try them. The gelato was expensive, but isn’t it always? The staff was friendly and happy to let us sample everything. The shop was cute and modern with a fair amount of seating.


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+ Graeter’s: A Cincinnati staple with a cult following. My husband’s former roommate’s parents would bring him coolers of Graeter’s when they came to visit. That was my first introduction, but I’ve continued to pick up on a sort of strange this-is-the-ultimate-ice-cream obsession from others I’ve met. There’s shops — unless brand new — are all over the area and all seem a bit dingy to me. But that’s not what you’re there for. Try the black raspberry chocolate chip!

+ Nada: Contemporary Mexican downtown. Mixed feelings on this one. It was pricy, but it was kind of classy in a restaurant chain-like way. (But it is not a chain!) Nada felt like a contemporary Mexican Cheesecake Factory. Can I say that? We sat outside in the shade of a tree with globe ball lights strung in it. I got barbacoa tacos — two tacos for $12. I’m a sucker for pickled red onions lately.

Do

+ Sharon Woods: A park with rolling paths around a small lake. It costs a few dollars to get in, but it feels good to support such a nice park. The bathroom was actually pretty nice, which I appreciate in a park. There was a splash pad and playground, boat rentals, fishing areas, picnic tables, and several miles of paved trails. There are several geocaches along the way, too!

+ Findlay Market: Historical public market. Like Soulard Market in St. Louis, there’s something charming about markets with physical buildings in addition to the little pop-up stands. Our favorites were the Taste of Belgium stand, where we got waffles, and Pet Wants, where we got a dog treat for Oscar waiting patiently at the hotel. It was crowded when we were there, but not overwhelming. The market is open every day of the week but Monday.

+ MiCA 12/v: Home decor, jewelry, and gifts in Over-the-Rhine. This shop is in the middle of the hip Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The prices are what you would expect, but the items they carry are pleasantly unique. The gift options seem to hit all groups of recipients, too — men, women, and children. Though I only walked out with a perfume sample, I would come back to slowly browse again.

+ Loveland Castle: A hidden gem that may or may not be worth your money. We’ve been obsessed with castles since spotting one hidden on a hill on another trip. This one is strange but interesting. It’s volunteer run and operated solely on the admission price of $5 a person. If you like strange, unique spots, it’s worth it. There’s a small castle to walk around inside, gardens to view, and a river to picnic near. They didn’t mind our dog or our giggling about the strangeness of it all.


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See

+ Union Terminal: Art deco beauty at an old train station. It’s free to park for several minutes and fun to check out the fountain out front and ceilings inside. There’s a museum, but we didn’t go into that section. It was fun enough to see the architecture, though a little out of the way from the other places we were.


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+ 21C Museum Hotel: Art gallery inside a hotel. The art here is contemporary — or creepy, if you’re unfamiliar with most contemporary art. We’re fans of the 21C Hotels (in Louisville and Bentonville besides Cincinnati), because we like free art opportunities but aren’t quite ready to shovel out money for the nightly rate to stay. This was right near Nada and the Contemporary Art Museum, which I’m still sad we didn’t make time for.

Stay

We did the good ol’ Drury Inn for this one — hello Kickback and low pet fees! But other options:

+ 21C Museum Hotel: Do it if you’ve got the cash. It looks so fun.

+ Airbnb home five minutes from downtown

+ Airbnb studio in Over-the-Rhine

Disclosure: Affiliate links used

normal is not necessary



Pebble by 2birdstone



Pebble by 2birdstone

I think I’m starting to accept it. A little late to the game, aren’t I? I’m not afraid to admit I’m still growing up and giving up a lot of naive hopes.

My life will never be normal. And normal is not necessary. Not necessary for my faith or my happiness or my enjoyment or my contentment.

Some of this not normal I have chosen. Some of it I have not.

It is not normal to be unable to travel for a three-day holiday weekend because your husband is working the night before and the night after. It’s not normal to go to bed at 2 a.m. and sleep in until 10 a.m. because you can’t sleep without him.

It is not normal to have your brain scanned every six months to a year for the rest of your life.

It is not normal to pursue adoption before biological children. It is not normal to wait two years for something that was expected to take 11 months.

It seems trivial when I write it, but these have all been on my mind. Schedules, health, family. Not normal.

I have struggled to accept that I will now never have a clear health history and will have yearly reminders of those really scary few days in the hospital. I have struggled to accept that the family-building route we felt called to has not been as smooth as we hoped.

It’s all based on comparison, though. And I like this life and its uniqueness quite a bit. I’m accepting that normal is not necessary. So, here we go. I have to imagine the not normal will only increase. 

parenting concepts for me: the river of well-being



The Neighbors by Kayla King



The Neighbors by Kayla King

I whole-heartedly believe unstable people should not be adopting and fostering. I also believe that a parent needs to do “work” on his or her heart before they expect to be able to do “work” on a child’s heart. 

Yet I am constantly and foolishly surprised at the way (therapeutic) parenting concepts pertain to me. Myself. My personality. My modus operandi.

The river of well-being is one of a few concepts Dan and I have been mentioning frequently. I heard the concept a while ago. I heard it again at Created for Care. And I’m hearing it yet again as I read The Whole-Brain Child. (Dan read the book a couple years ago… The man has read more parenting books than I have, and it’s fun to see him geek out about something new: parenting.)

It’s basically this: Imagine yourself in a boat on a river. In the middle, you’re safe and calm. It’s peaceful, and that peace enters into who you are and what you’re doing in the world.

But occasionally, you drift toward the banks of the river and have difficulties. One bank is chaos. You become out of control and disorderly. The other bank is rigidity. Instead of you being out of control, you’re imposing control on people and experiences around you. You are inflexible.

For kids, the chaos may be a tantrum over being asked to put on shoes to leave the house. And rigidity may be a unwillingness to wear a weather-appropriate pair of shoes to leave the house. Back and forth, back and forth.

My chaos of choice lately has been to throw the meal plan out the door, eat junk food, and leave the house messy. My rigidity has been to get annoyed by the messy house and demand Dan help me clean up our bedroom or I won’t relax enough to fall asleep. Back and forth, back and forth. (I know, seriously stupid. Just a glimpse of what I let stress do to me.)

I am becoming more aware of it, and I’m learning to prevent it or address it in myself. So I can some day help little people in our home prevent and address their chaos and rigidity.

Where do you see yourself being rigid or chaotic? Which do your kids most frequently lean toward?

small preparations and lowered expectations

Small preparations. We’ve been slowly buying items we need if we are to be united with our sons at some point in the near future. Snacks on sale, little toys for outside, reusable sticker books for travel. We’ve been organizing and preparing their room slowly but surely. Entertaining the possibility of a double-wide toddler bed for those little bodies sleeping side by side every night. Bagging up the clothes that surely won’t fit anymore for the basement.



twin crib in the works



These are all things we’ve known we would need to do for two years now, but we’ve waited purposely. It will be heartbreaking if these preparations are all in vain. Seriously heartbreaking. But we’ve finally reached a point where we’re allowing ourselves to give feet to our hopeful hearts. It feels as if we’re on the brink of what will be the biggest relief or the biggest disappointment of our experience so far. True story.

Lowered expectations. Will we meet them next month? Will they be shy for long? Will they be afraid of our dog? Will their grief take shape in physical hits and kicks? Will they be unable to sleep at night? Will we be able to communicate them easily? Will they like popsicles?



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We’ve trying to say yes and no to all these questions. So many months of dreaming of what life with T + E will be, and we’re trying to get rid of the expectations we’ve built up. Even as I think and write, I’m saying “yes, no, yes, no” to the above. Being bold, I’ll share this: I think I’m at risk for post-adoption depression if I’m not careful. And it’s something I want to avoid. Lowering expectations for myself and for them is a good step right now.

Besides these two things, there are other things going on. Working with potential foster families. Enjoying our summer. Soaking up Dan’s days off. Walking each morning for our fundraiser. (Still time to pledge!) And tomorrow, a first follow-up MRI. Your prayers for all these things are appreciated. Our hearts — and hopes — are high.



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a walk-a-thon adoption fundraiser


a walk-a-thon adoption fundraiser


Today begins two weeks of walking as many miles as I can for my T + E. Well, specifically for the final adoption fees we hope to have heading our way. But I have to tell you I’ll be thinking of those sweet boys the whole time, not the fees. It feels we are very close to the end!

I am just as tired of fundraising as our friends and family are of hearing about it. But I think I’m excited about this one!

Here are the details:
1) Using the online form, you pledge an amount per mile and have the option to choose a maximum total pledge amount. Any amount is acceptable! Seriously. The form will remain active until the end of the two weeks. It’s not too late to pledge.
2) Between 8 a.m. on Monday, June 23rd, and 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 6th, I will walk, walk, walk.Outdoors as much as possible, and indoors if it’s raining or way too hot. She’ll track extended walks… not steps per day.
3) I will post screen shots of her walk tracker, updates, and photos to the updates page, including a grand total at the end of the day on July 6th.
4) Using the email address you provided, we will kindly remind you of your pledge amount and direct you to options to meet your pledge! Tax-deductible options will be available.

To encourage you to pledge, we have prizes!
Any pledge amount: Entry in a raffle for a $10 Target gift card and a $25 gift card usable at Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Steakhouse, Outback Steakhouse, or Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
Maximum pledge of $50: Hand-written thank you from Natalie delivered ASAP plus the above.
Maximum pledge of $100: Handmade thank you from T + E delivered soon after their homecomingplus all of the above.
Maximum pledge of $250: High-quality art print of the “Get You Here” design delivered ASAP plus all of the above.

Only eight people have pledged so far, so your chances of winning the raffle are still seriously good.

Here’s the song that inspired this fundraiser. It will be stuck in your head for a lonnnng time.

an open door

For almost a year now, I’ve been praying doors to (legal, ethical) adoptions would be opened in T + E’s home country. I’ve used those exact words in my prayer journal countless times.

I don’t usually think a lot about signs from God or look for them. I’m not even sure what I think about the concept. But I saw this on my walk yesterday morning. Boy, I hope it’s true.



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