Our New Happy Place

I am a planner…a five-year plan is my happy place. Well, it used to be. Life has a way of humbling us…and the thought of mapping out where I think we should be in five years has become a bit comical. Take the month of May, for example. Today is April 22. Within the next thirty days we will either say goodbye to our Peas; say hello forever to our Peas; just hang out with the Peas a bit longer (til the next court date); perhaps take on a additional Pea…as one is cooking and is due in May; AND welcome a new family member for a spell. So, uh, plans are really…not…ummm…conducive to our current way of life.

This kind of “uncertainty” is our new normal. And though it is true for all of us, we are keenly aware that we have no idea what the future holds. But our hope for our future is secure…because it now rests on the unchangeable shoulders of a good God. And that space of faith is our new happy place. Trusting the One who is immovable, unchangeable…and good. We feel such certainty that all will be well. All will be well. This place of peace beats the pants off a five-year plan.

Treasure

We believe our time with the Peas is drawing to a close. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But in anticipation of a life without these precious girls, my heart cannot help but treasure moments. Images of dimples and crazy hair and chubby legs and outreached arms…the way Chick Pea holds my face as we touch noses…the way Sweet Pea says “Ma ma ma,” and sings with me “Ahhhh ahhhh ahhhh”…these moments placed and secured in a trove.

Some folks, lots of folks, shy away from fostering for this very reason…the fear of loss. Oh! But to live each day with the awareness that time is fleeting…such a gift! This  awareness colors our home and relationships…shading the moments of our lives with brilliant hues…making life just a bit sweeter. 

We wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Unfit

So, we’ve been fostering for about three years. And in that three years’ time, we’ve been assigned the crème de la crème of case managers. I wish she could say the same for us…or for me. But she has informed me…laughingly, “Jan, you are not a good foster mom. You are a great mom. But you treat these foster babies like they are yours. And they are not. You must remember, they are not yours.” Yep. It is true. I struggle greatly with the disparity in my parenting style for my “own children” versus my parenting style for my precious fosters. Risk management? What’s that? I figure, as long as the consequence is not fatal…or near fatal…let ’em figure stuff out for themselves. Right? Let ’em play, and tumble and climb and explore. Let ’em be bold and courageous in the face of the play scape or the slide or the tree. Yeah. No bueno for my Peas. No. Bueno.

And in my quiet moments, I realize, I am NOT a good foster mom. There are aspects of this gig that I forget time and time again. But I am learning. Slowly. I am learning. The babies belong to another woman. And my haphazard approach to risk management probably leaves her frustrated…and worried. And I am starting to realize, my inattention to detail is…unkind. Sigh.

Though it will feel crazy unnatural, I am going to try to parent in a way that isagainst every instinct I have. Now, I won’t stop being me…and I’ll make mistakes…and the fact that I am currently parenting a dare-devil of a toddler comes into play. Up til now, my focus in parenting has been for the love of the babies in my charge. My passion for their good. I am going to try to parent in a way that is loving to my charges’ mama. A consideration for her vulverable position of leaving the care of her babies to another.

Here’s to becoming a more loving foster mom…a fit foster mom.

D is for…oh…Dang!

We do a weekly memory verse from the Bible. Recently I got some ABC Bible verse cards. They are très cute! AND ABC’s? Come on…perfection for this current age.

Well, this morning I pulled out D. For my own amusement, I try to guess the verse and then do a grand reveal. I had settled comfortably on “Delight yourself in the Lord,” when BOOM! I was hit with “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” (Philippians 2:14.) And if you can’t tell by my complaining about drawing this winner, I’ll say it clearly. I speak fluent complaint. No? Not clear? I complain. A lot. It is a sensitive area of weakness for me. I despise my complaining…and yet I persist. I have a lot to say about this struggle…about embracing myself as is…as Jesus does. Accepting my limitation…without condemning myself…while hoping for better. But that is another post.

And so, I’m a bit panicked. This will be an interesting week, and I hope to write through this struggle…speaking the gospel to both my children and to myself. The gospel here…I am a broken woman and God has asked me to raise children…and teach them stuff about behaving as decent human beings. I am a broken woman…both beautiful and terrible…full of love and compassion…and venom and judgement. I get some things right and some things wrong. And God asks me to teach…to teach my kids “to do everything without complaining or arguing” though I am the chief complainer. The gospel? I am loved. And I cannot keep this command. But I am loved. And I will teach them. And my girls will not be able to keep this command. And they will be loved. 

Now, Jesus…help me keep a straight face as I introduce my girls to this verse. Open up the discussion of my inability to do this non-complaint thing…and my comfort and hope. You are making me new. You are making my heart new. You forgive my failures, and though You call me to a standard I cannot keep, You adore me. Thanks, buddy.

 

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Pre-Kinder-Itis

Hello. My name is Jan. My daughter is about to enter kindergarten. The very fact that it is JANUARY and she will not begin until the fall probably tells you a little something about me. Or that fact that I went to my first home-school convention when she was eight MONTHS old. That might give you a hint. Or the fact that I’ve sat down with my buddy who is the principal of a local elementary school to get the lowdown on public education. And then there’s the private school that I’ve visited. Twice. That does a half a day kinder with TONS of outdoor play and exploration…and, by they way, is my dream school. And costs a million dollars. Oh, and I definitely plan on walking up the block to the elementary school at the end of our street to take a tour and sit in on a class.

What is wrong with me? You guys. This is not rocket science. I am CLEARLY the product of privilege. And perhaps emotional instability. And a touch of over-think-it-itis. Whatever the case, I am laughing at how absurd I am making this whole…venturing into education thing.

Phil? Cool as a cucumber. Of course. Cause at the end of the day, she will be fine. And she will do fine. And there will be mistakes and tears and injustice…whether I school her at home, up the street, or at my dreamy-dream school.

Though I know I am…uh…analyzing this thing to death…I can’t seem to stop myself. Thank God for Phil. Right? Oh, and for all those amazing options. Let’s not forget that. How fortunate?

But seriously, this little stint into motherhood…the FIRST one entering school…this thing has to have some sort of name. Right?

Oh. And the really funny part of my situation? After the first year, we will be an RV family. So we will be homeschooling. Hey. Maybe we’ll just skip kinder!

The Wheels on the Bus

We have done it! We’ve taken the leap. We are now a one-car family. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought we’d do this. Yet here we are…with only one vehicle. (How snobby do I sound? Just one of the most ridiculously extravagant forms of transportation First. World. Girl.) But, wonder of wonders, it is wonderful!

To be honest, this was not our plan. It wasn’t even on the radar, which makes it all the more fun. This new adventure invited us to join. And even that…the invitation…was not direct. It went something like this:

We took our red minivan on a wild ride to California and back…well, almost back. About thirty miles away from our blessed beds, the van all but exploded. Driver error. Ahem. Anyhoo, big hole. Right in the engine. But I’m getting ahead of myself. As far as we knew at this point, the thing just didn’t work. We had the van towed to the auto shop to await a verdict…after the long holiday weekend.

And then the new year rolled around. Our car in the shop…awaiting the examination and diagnosis. I casually asked Phil if he had any New Year’s resolutions. If you know Phil, you  know he struggles with time. Never. Enough. So he asked me if I could help him get more than 24 hours into a day. And if you know me, you know that I figured I just might be able to do it. Me and time. We’re buddies. (That’s code for I’m never late. Never. Eh. Almost never.)

After a quick analysis, I noted Phil’s commute was killing him. Forty five minutes to work, forty five minutes home. Then play, play, play with kids…send me to bed…and do a bazillion chores…and put in a few more hours of work. Oh, and take care any crying babies in the middle of the night. (I know. Right? Who is this man?)

“Phil. Your commute is the problem. Can you work from home one day a week?” NOPE. He must be in the office. But not for the full eight hours. Just daily in the office. Sigh. “Hmmmm. How about the bus??? You can work on the way to work and on the way home.” And just like that, a crazy new scheme was hatched.

Wednesday morning, Phil jumped on San Antonio’s public transportation. It has been forty years since he had ridden a bus. Forty. And it went well. He picked up some tips from friends at work who commute by bus. He picked up some tips from the bus drivers. And he picked up a bike…complete with helmet…to help him cover those two miles between the last drop off and his office.

Suddenly, Phil was getting home at 5:00 with NO work to do. None. All work complete via office and bus. We found 90 more minutes for his day. Yea!!!

And then the news came. Hole. In the engine. It would cost more to fix the engine than the van was worth. What. To. Do? We slept on it. For a week. We slept hard because we did NOT think we could swing one car. But, the bus experiment was going so well, we figured…let’s try this one-car thing.

And so, here we are…one car! A brand new adventure. Not sure how long this will last…but… We’re loving the teamwork this requires. We’re loving the simplicity this inspires. We’re loving the money that we’re saving. This might be a long-term fix!

 

Twenty Three Skiddoo

getaway 

Twenty three years ago, I married Chuck Picciuti. In an outdoor ceremony. With no plan B. Good thing the weather held!

January 1. My favorite day of the year? Maybe. Maybe so. For me,  this day simultaneously holds joy and hope beyond compare coupled with incomprehensible grief. January 1, 1994. Me and Chuck. It cracked him up to introduce me thus, “This is my first wife, Jan.” So it is with irony that each January 1st, I reflect on life with my first husband, Chuck.

I am forever grateful for my years with Chuck Picciuti…for each laugh…for each ridiculous fight…for each jaw-dropping moment (and trust me, there were many.) My soul is etched with his name. Not a day goes by that I do not lean on a Chuck-Picciuti-lesson. The man taught me:

  1. To see and embrace the funny…in even the darkest of moments.
  2. Sometimes the rules need to be broken.
  3. Just act like you know what you are doing and people won’t question you. (This move is useful for crashing everything from a Spurs luncheon to the box seats of…any event really.)
  4. The mind has an amazing capacity to override the body.
  5. To trust my instincts.
  6. To fly by the seat of my pants.
  7. To. Do. Nothing. To just sit and be.
  8. When nervous or scared to try something new, to imagine the very worst that could happen and reflect on whether or not I could live with the worst outcome. This little exercise gets me to “jump,” more than anything else.

And of course, he taught me to grieve. He taught me that great love is worth great pain. He taught me that life can be filled with joy and laughter and light even after unspeakable loss.

He was a keeper. And so he stays…etched.