Category Archives: Guest Post

Because I just got taller

I had a biennial physical this week. Everything was great and one vital statistic was better than great: I am a half-inch taller than I used to be.

I attribute it to yoga. A steady yoga practice can put space into one’s spine to counter the compression that comes over time. I began practicing yoga more than 5 years ago and now I’m aiming for 6’2″ before I die, so that’s a lot of yoga (and a lot of years! I’m clever like that).

In honor of this half-inch, I share with you today a guest post by mom and yogini Kim Shand, a yoga teacher who writes about finding the calm within the storm that is parenting. Her grown-up secret? Balasana — the pose of the child.

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Rethink yogaI’ve been a mother for 23 years. My husband and I have raised two children to the point to adulthood, if not complete independence. We navigated pee-wee soccer, teen acne, and way too many prom nights. We survived the transition when they left for college. We endured the roller coaster ride toward degrees. We are now waist deep in the ”kids are back home” adventure.

When your children are babies you feel the excitement and the trepidation of not knowing what’s ahead of you. Having conquered the unknown, I had a perception of myself as an experienced parent. Now, with two 20-somethings in the house full-time, I am once again facing down the ravine of unknown territory. As I enter this new phase of post-parenting parenting, I find myself once again leaning heavily on the lessons of my yoga practice to find the calm within the storm.

Child’s pose is always an option. It used to be that time outs were a useful tool for the children, giving them time to calm down and choose a better course of action. Now they are an appropriate tool for me. ON the mat child’s pose is an opportunity to pull back from the intensity of the practice and check in. OFF the mat, a mental child’s pose steps you back and take a few deep breaths.

My husband and I had taken a long weekend away to reconnect and recharge, leaving our house in the hands of our children who needed to remain on their work schedules. Although I love to travel, I always have a sense of joy in returning home to my own kitchen, my own bed and everything familiar. Walking through the door of our home on a Tuesday afternoon, I fully expected the comfort of the familiar. I was greeted with something I’d never seen before.

yoga child's poseThe kitchen sink was piled with dirty dishes. The smell of rotting food pervaded. The family room had piles of laundry.  For some reason I couldn’t possibly fathom, a soaking wet towel was lying on the wood floor of the kitchen.

It was time for child’s pose.

Maintain a beginner’s (child’s) mind. No matter how long you’ve been practicing, your body is different every time you step onto the mat, and what you need is different. Approaching each yoga pose as though it is your first allows you to stay open to new possibilities without predetermined ideas of what works and what your limits are.

My child’s pose allowed me to call my son at his office and and resist the temptation to launch an assault. I asked what had happened in the house. He explained that there had been a power outage leaving them without electricity for 3 days. They couldn’t run the dishwasher. The ice in the freezer had started to melt, so each morning they put a towel in front of it before leaving for work. They were showering at friends’ houses at night and then changing into work clothes in the family room because it had the most windows and natural light at dawn.

Release your attachment to the outcome: Each time you try a yoga pose you get stronger. Mentally and physically you create change by putting out effort without your ego demanding a specific outcome. It makes no difference if you stick the pose perfectly or struggle and fall. The benefits are always there.

Could my grown children have emptied the ice from the freezer to avoid the flood? Maybe used a bigger towel (or several)? Would I have washed the dishes by hand in the same situation? Was it feasible to neatly fold the clothes they walked out of before putting clean clothes on? It’s all possible.

On the other hand, their effort created a benefit. My vision of an outcome was not their vision. My kids have very distinct personalities all their own, and (hard to believe) not everything about them is a reflection, or indictment, of me. The dishes got washed. The clothes found the laundry room. The wooden floor dried out. Two young adults didn’t end up feeling like they came up short.

Relax with what is: This is simultaneously the most difficult and the most useful single lesson a yoga practice can offer.

Kim Shand is the founder of Rethink Yoga. She travels nationally on a mission to inspire people to take control of their health, how they think, and how they age, through yoga. Kim brings a lighthearted, honest approach that stays relevant to students’ experiences. She motivates her students to find their power, their joy and to be “All In. All the Time.” Follow Kim on Facebook, on Twitter, and on YouTube.

2011 Adoption Bloggers Interview Project

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2011Today is Interview Project day for more than 120 adoption bloggers. I therefore introduce to you to my partner-in-project, Allison of A Few Sprinkles Short of a Sundae.

I had the chance to get to know Allison through her blog and through email. She is a Christian, a wife and a mom — by birth (the usual 9 month gig) and via adoption (638 days from placement to finalization). She and her husband are currently waiting for their second placement through the foster care system. Allison is a writer and photographer who also enjoys speaking about infertility, parenting, and her Christian testimony.

Here is my interview with her (and hers with me).

When did you start blogging and why?

I began blogging the day after I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, so April 21, 2006. It was a way to chronicle what was going on. Over time it developed into more than just what was happening with my family and I eventually closed that blog down. I began my current blog in June 2010 wanting to focus less on how cute my children are and more on issues all mothers – biological and adoptive – face on a daily basis. I also wanted to be a little more anonymous than my previous blog, listing my children by nicknames instead of full names.

What is your favorite post and why?

That is such a hard question! It depends on the topic of discussion. If we’re talking adoption, Fake Kids, Real Mom is a favorite because it addresses those questions all adoptive moms hate. And 638 days is a no-brainer (when we finalized our adoption). I’ll also push The Other Side of Adoption, because it was written by my college roommate who is a birthmother who placed her daughter for adoption.

If we’re talking non-adoption posts, Toddlers vs. Frat Parties is a good one. Allergy Mom to the Rescue is quite funny. And my top-viewed post is Chivalry Isn’t’ Dead.

Okay, one more? Please? Sweating Faith is probably one of my favorite posts of all time. Okay. Now I’m done!

You came to adoption via the foster system, and are currently waiting for your second placement through DSS. How did you end up on this path?

It was not my choice, actually. Way back before we had children my husband and I applied with an adoption agency hoping to adopt from Guatemala. They talked us into doing domestic infant adoption. My husband really wanted a newborn and I selflessly gave in to that (I don’t know why – he wasn’t the one getting up in the middle of the night changing poopy diapers or feeding said poop machine). I wound up getting pregnant while waiting for a match, so that was put on hold of course. But when our daughter was just a few months old, I kept seeing billboards for foster care adoptions. I loved the picture; it was two large white eggs with two smaller speckled eggs. Then I heard ads on the radio, and television. I felt like I was being inundated with foster care adoption propaganda. Through prayer I felt like God was leading us in this direction. I resisted – a lot. But after talking to my husband we decided to go to an informational meeting and the rest is history. I was hooked. I wanted to bring home every child I saw.

Does openness fit in with your situation? How are you beginning to answer (or how do you plan to answer) your son’s questions about his placement and his first family?

About three months after we brought our son home we got a devastating call. Biological extended family was suing the state for custody of my son. It’s very long and not my story to tell, but suffice to say “the state” had deemed them inappropriate to raise him, so they sued. We had to counter sue. In that time we, through our attorney, asked if they would be willing to drop their suit if we could have a semi-open arrangement with them. They said no. But when we finally went to court we were told they wanted to “settle.”

So now we have a court order that we have supervised visitation with this portion of the extended biological family. Sadly this is not a family that we can trust in any way, so all visits are supervised by us and nobody but the two people named in the court order are allowed to the visits. We see them four times a year.

The birthparents never made any attempt to seek visitation and even if they did it would be very dangerous for him, which is sad for our son, but I am very happy that when he gets older we can tell him that someone in that family wanted him and loved him, even though they could not care for him.

Right now our son is only 3 and all he knows about his situation is that “adoption means forever.” I have attempted to tell him who the people we have visits with are, but I truly don’t think he understands. We have told him about his first family and how they were unable to care for him so his social worker found a forever family for him, but it all seems to go over his head. But we keep the dialog open so that one day when it does sink in he can ask questions and we will provide what little answer we know.

You are in a position to answer the question many of us can’t: what differences exist between parenting a biological child and parenting a child who came to you via adoption?

There is no difference between parenting a bio child versus an adopted child. I still had to potty train them both. I wipe both noses and kiss both boo-boos. I teach them and I discipline them. On a basic, every day level, both are my children regardless of how they became that way.

Yes, I did miss 10 months of my son’s life, but what are a few months in the span of the (hopefully) 50 years I will parent him?

I was not one of those mothers who fell instantly in love with the child I birthed. It took time. And it took time with the child I adopted, too. When both my children were new to me (as a newborn or as an almost-toddler) I loved them, but it took a few months for me to have that overwhelming in love feeling. Yes, it did take a little longer with our adopted child, but not noticeably longer in my mind.

What, besides your family, what lights you on fire? What are you all about?

What am I all about? Well, my passions outside the three loves of my life (hubby, daughter and son) are writing and talking. I have completed one novel, have two almost done and so many more in my head! I wish I had more time to write. I would also love to break into the public speaking circuit. I aspire to “well-known” status and would love to speak at Christian women’s conferences about things many women struggle with: depression, infertility, marriage, and parenting. I want people to know that they are not alone in their struggles and that if you can find just one small piece of humor in your day it’s all worthwhile. I also love to share my testimony and share the love of Jesus Christ with people. It’s much easier in written form (like my blog) than face-to-face, so I tend to write a lot of it down and post it.

The ability to connect with others is what keeps this world going and even one small connection between two people gives light to this weary world!

Allison had some really incisive questions for me on her blog.

To read interviews from other pairs of adoption bloggers, visit The Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2011.

Guest post: Moses the Mouse

I’m traveling for work (and meeting Quiet Dreams!). Holding my place this week is guest poster* Melissa Nilsen, mom, birthmom and stay-at-home writer.

Melissa blogs about open adoption and motherhood at BirthMomGuide. “I am a lucky birthmom. I live in the same state as my nine-year-old birthdaughter and her wonderful family. Her mother and I enjoy getting lost in conversation, remembering the past, the start of our relationship. And swapping notes about parenthood and marriage.”

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Our baby mouse died in the palm of my hand on Friday. My four year old daughter, Twila had been pining for a pet for weeks and could not understand why I kept telling her we have to wait until the baby is sleeping through the night and Minnesota is warm again before we can start thinking about getting a dog. Though a mouse was not the pet any of us had at the top of our list, sometimes pets choose their owners and not the other way around.

Seven days earlier when Twila came running into the baby’s room—as I was attempting to lay baby Jada down for a nap—whispering loudly and gesticulating wildly to try and extract me from the nursery and drag me outside, I couldn’t have known that the tiny infant mouse she had found laying helplessly on the engine of our lawn-mower, would turn our house upside down for the next week. Insane as it may seem to invest any effort into the life of a mouse, infant or otherwise, as soon as I saw his tiny, helpless body, I knew we had to try and help him.

After a quick bit of on-line research about wild baby mouse care (yes there are pages and pages written on rescuing wild, baby mice) we rushed off to the local pet store for kitten formula. After a bit of delicate coordination, Twila and I figured out how to dropper a few drips of milk into the tiny opening of a mouth under our little mouse’s nose without completely submerging him in a deluge from the too-large formula bottle. We read that baby mice needed to be cleaned with damp Q-tips; we read that they need to be fed often; we read that the odds were long.  Because baby mice need to be fed every two hours, starting that night I got up twice a night (between my own infant’s feedings) to warm up kitten formula and drip a couple of drops into his mouth.

After a few days of this, Moses, as we had dubbed him because he was an underdog, was up on his feet, crawling from Twila’s hand to mine and all around in circles blindly exploring our hands. He began taking an active interest in feeding time, waking up every two hours and pawing his way to the top of the mesh, circling and rooting around for his miniscule bottle of milk. He had grown so active in the seven days we had him that Twila and I were convinced we would soon see him opening his eyes and eating seeds and fruit and other grown-up mouse treats. His playful energy gave us hope. We went out and bought a small mouse cage and some woodchips.

He was beginning to sleep longer than two hours between feedings but it had been almost four hours, I noted as my husband was bathing our daughters last Friday night, and I decided it was time to wake him up. As soon as I peeled back the final layer of blanket I knew something was wrong. He didn’t get up, crawl onto my hand, or sniff around for food. He lay almost completely still, taking a breath every few seconds.

After a few moments of deliberation, I decided Twila had a right to know what was happening. I carried his tiny body into the bathroom and told her I thought Moses was dying. She looked at the water, at her sister playing next to her, and around at her toys, avoiding my eyes. “It’s okay to be sad,” I said softly as Ryan reached for her towel.

The hours of delicately feeding him by bottle and cleaning him with warm-water moistened Q-tips had bonded both Twila and me with the little guy and we both sobbed as we sat on the floor watching him breathe, knowing we didn’t have much more time with him, knowing our hopes of seeing his eyes open for the first time were finished.

As we sat watching Moses in the final moments of his life, I thought, not for the first time, that any bystander would think this effort insane. Maybe it is crazy to try and save a mouse. The odds of survival were less than fifty percent, besides it’s not like I’ve ever been above setting a mouse trap if there is evidence of an intruding rodent in the house. Why then would I invest so much time and emotional energy in this mouse? It’s hard to explain the kind of responsibility that is bred from discovering the most vulnerable of beings: a tiny, unseeing, infant mouse. As soon as he was in my daughter’s possession, he was ours; ours to protect or abandon.

Something in my daughter’s bright face and hopeful grin; something in her tone of affection for the tiny animal, made it impossible to turn away from him. Twila’s hope reminded me what it was like to be a little girl with boundless optimism and courage. She didn’t see a pest; she saw a creature in need. I saw myself on her face, that part of me that found magic in cottonwood snowing down from the trees in spring; the part of me who searched for orphan pets to bring home and nurse back to health; I saw that part of my youthful self who found hope in the underdog winning. I could no more have turned my back on Moses than told my daughter Santa Claus isn’t real.

As Moses took his last breath, Twila and I held each other and cried, looking at his still, tiny body. Before bed we wrapped him in one of his tiny blankets and buried him out in the garden. Twila decorated his shallow grave with rocks. That night she said, “I’m glad we found Moses, even though he died, because at least he knew we loved him.” I told her I agreed. Then she said, “You wanna know the good news mom?” I said I did and she said quite brightly, “Now we can still get a puppy!”

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* The views and opinions of a guest writer are solely those of the guest writer.