Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Six Years

Six years ago, I was a completely different person.

I hardly ever questioned my future. I just figured it was all going to work out the way I had planned. Because I was a huge proponent of plans.

Six years ago, I thought we would open up a foster license or figure out the process to adopt because we were struggling with infertility. Infertility seemed to equivalently draw us closer together and drive us further apart. It was a weird phenomenon.

I thought I'd be able to stay home with my kids as I worked through my college degree and then I'd eventually work 2-3 days a week as a Marriage and Family Therapist. I had signed up for night classes so the kids wouldn't feel the loss of me being gone so much during the day.

Six years ago feels like a lifetime. Sometimes I try so hard to remember how I used to feel or react or the beliefs I had. All of it has changed. Everything started to shift six years ago.

But it wasn't some huge negative thing that ruined my life.

I built a new one. 

I'm still hilarious (obviously) and sarcastic and love to laugh. I still like to have serious discussions and get to know the background of people's lives. I am still extremely sensitive and hate confrontation.

But my priorities have shifted. 

I could be done with school right now. I could've gotten a masters degree and be working as a licensed therapist right now. I chose not to because I felt strongly that I needed to be with my kids as much as possible.

And then our dance life got so crazy and although I was with my kids in the afternoons/evenings, I felt like we didn't have very much time to connect.

After realigning that, I have remembered my original purpose for only wanting to work the hours my kids were in school. It is the reason that a teaching degree was so appealing to me. And it is the reason I finally submitted my paperwork to finish my student teaching.

I've been paralyzed with moving forward since December of last year. For a while, I thought about throwing away ALL of the schooling I've done and just work the job I've worked for over ten years. I like comfort. New things bring me anxiety.

But then I thought about this past year and how up until February of 2019, I had fully planned on taking in Nixon's biological baby brother that was about to be born. I told our caseworker I would do anything to keep the boys together. And then I just couldn't make it work. I was working two jobs. I was raising three kids on my own. I prayed about it and taking his brother in as a newborn was not right for our family. I hated that answer. But I followed it and am glad I did.

This past week, I've thought about Baby Brother so many times. I've thought about why I said no and what would've happened if I had said yes. And I realized that although I don't regret taking Brother, I do regret the time I've spent over-exerting myself instead of just breathing and raising my babies.

That's really all I want out of life. 

I think that's what makes these past six years so significant to who I am now. I've done a lot of things I never thought I was capable of doing on my own. I'm adopting Nixon in about three weeks. I'm spending time with my favorite people. And I'm going to finish school and have a career as a high school English teacher.

It probably looks similar to how things were six years ago. But the feelings are different. My opinions are different. And I'm starting to feel a little less paralyzed by fear these days.

So cheers to the next six years. If they push me to grow as much as the past six years have, I'm pretty much going to be perfect by then.

Time to stick around and see, y'all. ;)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Surrendering The Big Stuff


What I've learned throughout the past eight months is that I suck at surrendering.

Because I am a professional control freak. Or at least I try to be. 

Surrendering so much this year has been amazing. And extremely scary. I have taken some of my hardest decisions and consulted God in the process, trying to figure out what He wants for our family.

I found that some of the hardest decisions made the most sense. 

As you know, we've been a competitive dance family for 7+ years. I have found myself basing a lot of life decisions around dance. Because how can you not? Competitive dance (especially when you're working a second job to pay for it) runs your life. It just does. 

Can I continue to be a foster parent? Probably not because I teach dance on Saturdays and finding babysitters is so hard on me. 

Can we take a small vacation as a family? Probably not because all of my extra money needs to be set aside for hotels and competitions and nationals, etc. 

Can my kids try out for the school musical? Nope---because dance is 4-5 days a week. 

You get the point. 

Around June, it was beginning to haunt me. I remember jokingly asking my friend how I was going to hold on as my 11-year-old danced throughout the next 7 years. How was I going to afford it? How would I be able to devote extra time to my boys? How would I student teach when I have to be at the studio to teach dance at 4pm? And how would I get enough classes to cover her dance fees when I couldn't teach past 6:30pm when daycare closed?

This past year had burned me out. I was at the studio until 8:30-9pm a few nights a week, with a teething/crawling/walking/whining baby boy and an older boy who would spend hours on his iPad.

Home cooked meals were a joke. Our house was always a disaster. I was definitely over-doing it. Definitely, definitely.

But then this precious girl of mine would thank me for making her dreams come true and allowing her to develop her passion and I'd tell myself we would figure this out, year after year. I'd figure it out if it killed me.

I held on in July. I went back to teaching and realized my schedule would be lighter this year---awesome as far as time with my boys, not awesome as far as paying for competitive dance.

I'd like to point out that when I say I held on, that was coupled with anxiety attacks at least weekly. But I smiled through it. I danced with my cutest dance babies through it. I stayed busy and told myself I'd sit down to figure out the logistics later.

I can't explain exactly what happened the day I decided we had to quit. I can't quite explain the emotions that went into it or the firm answer to prayer that life without dance was still life. That may seem ridiculous to need that answer but I did. 

I struggled with it at work. I sobbed to my sister. I didn't want to tell my kids. I didn't want to tell anyone at dance.

But I knew it was the only way I'd start to feel mentally healthy again. 

So at the beginning of August, I sat in the parking lot just outside of my kids school and told them we were taking a break from competitive dance for this year. And it was hard. We all cried. We cried for a few days.

But things began to turn around as the kids told me other things on their wishlist of activities. They tried out for the school play and both made it. We've gotten homework done every single day and had more home cooked meals as a family. We've spent so much time together in the afternoons. I't's been so different in the best way. 

Do I miss it? Yes and no. I miss the relationships. I miss watching Hayley shine on stage. I miss watching Andersen make new friends. I miss seeing the love that everyone has for Nixon. They've literally watched him grow from a newborn to a toddler.

But I don't miss the competitive stuff that gave me anxiety or worrying about how I was going to pay for it all. I don't miss stressing that Hayley wasn't working hard enough, only for her to come home in tears because she felt like she was working hard. None of this is a complaint about her teachers or her studio. If we hated them, we would've left a long time ago. The truth is that we loved Dance Republic. We loved the teachers. We loved all of our friends. Saying goodbye to what was a main priority in our lives was so hard. I know it won't be the same. I know the relationships have to shift. Hayley's dance friends are super busy and she isn't anymore.

But the amount of joy I have felt as we are preparing to adopt Nixon is worth those heartaches that we've felt. 

Surrendering answers in my life to God is not easy for me. This decision was one of those huge ones that I have fought for a while. But what I'm learning is that surrendering my life to God and His plan for me is going to bring us the most long-term happiness and peace.

And that is what I need the most right now.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

2019 : Surrender

It's been a few months, y'all.

So first of all---hi. I've missed you. 

It is already the 8th of January and although I picked my word a few days ago, I've been enjoying my time with my three babies and all of our holiday crazy.

So here I am, ready to write an update for you that includes my 2019 word.

2018 was the year. It is the best year we've had since divorce.

It wasn't an easy year. But it was our best one to date. 

In 2018, here are some things our family accomplished: 

  • Andersen performed as a meerkat in a production of The Lion King and was absolutely adorable. 
  • I fractured my toe/foot teaching dance, literally just by being kicked by a 10 year old. Darn dancers and their strong legs. ;) 
  • Hayley landed her round-off, back-tuck like a freaking boss. 
  • I spent February to May in a classroom at Gilbert High School, observing and tutoring for over 20 hours. 
  • Leo. The brightest part of our year was getting a call on Easter Sunday, asking if I'd take a 2 day old baby that was being discharged from the hospital in 20 minutes. That "yes" has changed our lives for the better. And nine months later, he is still changing my life daily. I never knew I could love another human as much as I love Hayley and Andersen but Leo is so equally loved and wanted. 
  • I took a 3 hour test that certified me to teach high school English and PASSED. 
  • Hayley attended her first Nationals in California with her dance team and they were amazing, coming away with many high titles. 
  • Andersen tried out and made the Drones hip hop team at Dance Republic and now says dance is his very favorite sport and that he wants to do it forever, just like his big sister. 
  • I interviewed at 5-6 high schools, being turned down each time but learning more and more about myself and how to interview each time. 
  • I spent October to December in three different classrooms at San Tan Charter HS, observing, tutoring, and teaching for over 55 hours. 
  • I was offered a job teaching high school English and through lots of prayer, I turned it down because it was not what was right for my family at this time. As hard as that was to try and make sense of why I would turn down a job I've worked toward, I've only felt peace since that moment. 
  • I got a daith piercing that has significantly helped my migraines. And after doing that, I went off of caffeine and have done really well with that! 
  • Leo has accomplished rolling, sitting up, laughing, learning to make various sounds, and getting super chubby and pretty tall for his age---cause he's just an overachiever like that. 
  • I finished my very last semester of school and decided to postpone my student teaching for a semester while I figure out some big decisions for my life. 
  • Hayley got glasses and looks absolutely adorable in them. 
  • I got to be a guest on a podcast with my friend, Emily, talking about my divorce and co-parenting and my life now. 
  • Hayley turned 10. 
  • Andersen turned 9. 
  • I turned 31. 
  • Leo stayed 0. 
  • Andersen lost two teeth. 
  • Leo got two teeth. 
  • Leo had his head shaved and got a Doc Band helmet that he will be wearing for the next 4 months. 
  • Both of the olders are flourishing and doing well in school. 
  • And although this will eventually be it's own post, we are hoping to adopt Leo sometime in 2019 and are praying that God can carry us through whatever plans He has for Leo's life. 

There is so much more, I'm sure. I could continue to tell you all of the amazing things my kids are doing and accomplishing. They truly inspire me to be a better person. 

I've been pondering on 2018 and my word for the year---forgiveness

I really feel like this was a year where God worked miracles in my heart that helped me to see so far beyond what I thought I was capable of seeing. 

I have spent this year mending friendships and letting go of ones that can't be mended. I've spent a significant amount of time working through any resentment still in my heart from my divorce and our difficult court trial last January. I've also worked through a lot of healing with my therapist to forgive myself. 

It is not over. I don't know if it ever will be. I am continuously on this scale of hating myself, loving myself, and forgiving myself for my life decisions. In fact, I feel as though I am still somewhere on that continuum with my ex-husband or others who have hurt me in my past. 

2018 was my year of miracles. I look back on the mostly-smooth co-parenting and the fact that I was able to raise a tiny newborn while working two jobs and going to school full time. It wouldn't have been possible without all of the miracles God placed in our lives. 

It wouldn't have been possible without all of you. 

As I thought about what I want 2019 to represent, the first thought that came to my mind is my need want for control in all aspects of my life. 

I struggle with OCD and anxiety daily.

I like control because if I can stay in control of a situation, my brain tells me that I won't get hurt.

It's not effective. I still get hurt. And my need for control usually just makes me sick with anxiety. It doesn't actually change the things that are happening.

So I'm going to try something in 2019 that I think I'm ready for.


I want to surrender the obsessive controlling that I try to do. This is actually something I've been working on for a while but I need it to be at the forefront this year.

As I pray for the adoption of my Leo boy, I want to surrender the feelings of control and worry that come with each court hearing and caseworker visit. Leo is my second experience with foster care but my first experience with adoption. I've known from the beginning that he was different. Even when they told me at a week old that he would only be with us for a few more days or when they changed their minds right before the last two court hearings and decided not to change the case plan to severance. We have a connection unlike anything I ever thought I could experience with a foster placement. And as this situation unfolds and we continue to love our little guy, it is SO hard not to want to control all of the things. But the truth is, I can't control it. DCS could take him tomorrow and I wouldn't be able to do anything about it. But I want to stop prolonging my enjoyment of watching my baby boy grow up by being scared that I'm going to lose him. I want to surrender those fears to my Heavenly Father and just be Leo's mom right now, in this moment.

As a person who will forever be co-parenting with my children's dad and their step-mom, I want to surrender the need to control each situation that presents itself. Co-parenting is not easy. It is ever-changing as the kids get older and as our personal lives change. I've had two different babies in my home. Their dad got married. Our dynamics have changed many times. And I still feel threatened by his wife sometimes and her relationship with our kids. I hate that I do it but I do. I still get scared that somehow, they will like her more than they like me. I'm still completely overprotective and get frustrated with any little mistake I hear has happened at their other house. And that---THAT is why I need to work on surrendering to Heavenly Father's plan. Because his plan involves my children being loved by myself, their dad, AND their step-mom. And it is a beautiful thing that my children have so many people who love them and care about them. No matter what that looks like or how it is given, all three of us love these kids. And that is a positive thing.

Over the years, my faith has been so strong in believing that God was going to place a future spouse in my life. It is something that is on my mind often. Being single is not easy and I often feel like I'm drowning, trying to keep up on paying bills and making sure my children's needs are met and somehow finding a minute for myself. I'm emotional about this one---because it's the hardest one for me to surrender. Although I am never going to give up on the potential for a future spouse, I think it is time that I surrender the belief that it  will  happen. There have been so many times where I did not know how to make my paycheck stretch and would have the thought, "If only I had a spouse who could provide another income in our home, then we will be ok.". There have been so many times where I realize the kids have more than one thing happening at the same time and I think, "If only I had a spouse, then I wouldn't have to feel anxious about getting my kids places.". There have been so many times where I've wanted to make a decision that feels right or easy but I am not sure I can say yes to it---because how would I take that on without a spouse?

2019 has some huge decisions and changes in the air. Some of those decisions, I can guarantee I will be judged for, solely based on the fact that I am single.

I mean, it sure as hell doesn't make sense that I would turn down a job that would increase our income. And it doesn't make sense that I foster and will possibly adopt other children when we have such a crazy schedule.

I get it. I'd probably look at me like I was crazy too, if I were you. 

But what I wish more than anything is that people could look at my life and understand that I am trying my best and that my main priority is being a mom and raising my children. I'd do anything for my kids---which includes turning down a job that would greatly decrease the amount of time I'd be able to spend with them.

And maybe to some of you, foster children are not my children---maybe that's the part that makes the least sense---but I believe they are my children. In fact, I believe they are all of our children.

God has asked me to take on some huge responsibilities in my life, ones that feel right but seem daunting. I'm scared. But I am trying to surrender to His will---not mine or yours.

I made my castle tall
I built up every wall
This is my kingdom and it needs to fall
I want You and no one else
Empty me of myself
Until the only thing that's left is
More of You
Less of me
Make me who I'm meant to be
You're all I want all I need
You're everything
Take it all I surrender
Be my king
God I choose
More of You
Less of me
More of You
This life I hold so close
Oh, God I let it go
I refuse to gain the world and lose my soul
So take it all I abandon everything I am You can have it
The only thing I need is
More of You

All to you
I surrender
All to you my blessed Savior
I surrender all