Tom Cruise Running

Friday was a rough day at our house.

Let me be clear: it wasn’t the kind of rough day we’ve had before. We’ve had the kind of days that shifted our very foundation before and this wasn’t it. It’s easier to maintain a certain perspective when you have had those kind of days where you weren’t sure if everyone was still going to be on this side of the dirt when the day was over.

This was your average rough day and it was all mine. Lately I haven’t been writing much of anything because that would mean I’d have to write true things. And my truth these days is that I’ve discovered that I don’t know how to rest

I have been running at such a hot operational tempo (being married to a military guy tends to rub off on a person’s vernacular) for so long now, my gears have gotten stuck in overdrive. I only know two speeds at which to plow through my life: fast and the even faster Tom Cruise run.(photo cred The 10- Minute Ramble)

I’m just going to be frank right here and say that this discovery about myself sucks. The meltdown of epic proportions at our house Friday was similar in scope to what you might see a tired, cranky, overwhelmed hangry three year old have in the middle of the Target aisle that’s suddenly populated with other parents whose children are actually behaving. And it was all mine as well. 

I was the one who was having worry-related stomach aches for the third day in a row. I was the one losing sleep and not stopping anywhere on my journey. I was the one who had the full plate and the fuller burden for all the people who are relying on me. And without pausing, without rest, I was running on empty.

My husband, Mr. Wonderful, is like a giant St. Bernard in these situations. He’s born to rescue people. Before he dove into the situation though, he prayed for us. For me. For all the crazy glue that was slowly coming undone in all those places I had so quickly run by the past few years.

As we talked I began to realize that because so many of our family’s burdens have been on my shoulders the last few years, I’ve gotten really bad at asking for help. And along the way I have forgotten how to slow down, how to really give myself permission to let things go for a little while and rest.

I used to be the Nap Queen. This was my actual nickname in college. My roommates were amazed at the chaos and crazy I could manage to sleep through and that I would just crash whenever I needed to.

Fast forward a few years (ok, obviously more than a few but don’t tell my kids-they think I’m 28. I’m rolling with it.)–

I. Can’t. Rest. 

I’m talking physically, but more importantly, mentally. I can’t stop Tom Cruise running through my mind or my To Do List. My caffeine consumption is enough to single-handedly keep Columbia in business. In fact, what we spend on caffeine is probably nearing the gross domestic product of several small countries.

I have managed my juggling act for quite some time. But then I dropped a ball. And another and another until now our floor is littered with them.

Friday felt like I was in the middle of one of those giant ball pits that are in kids’ play places. You know, the ones you thought were the best time ever as a kid but now that you think of it as a grownup it kind of makes you throw up just a little bit in your mouth?(photo cred

Mr. Wonderful did something that allowed me to stop drowning in the ball pit of my own making. He wrote down each worry I have been juggling–including the ones on the floor. Then he told me just for the weekend, he was going to take them and work on whichever of them he could help with. And I was not to do anything about them. In fact, he took that notebook so I couldn’t even look at them.

The act of putting everything on paper and then physically giving them to someone else for awhile sounds really simple. But don’t mistake simple for easy. Many times this weekend I have wanted to look at that book, cross things off the list, take them all back and start worrying about them but since Mr. Wonderful is way to big for me to wrestle the notebook away from, I couldn’t.

I have rested and relaxed. I got sleep. I finally did with those worries what I should have done long ago–I gave them away to my Savior. Though Mr. Wonderful was my earthly guard over that notebook full of my anxieties and what ifs, Jesus was the one I really entrusted it all with. I know better, but sometimes it takes a Mr. Wonderful-sized reminder to actually do better before we give it away.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So if you see me Tom Cruise running, you have permission to tell me I need to slow down-

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2017. Click here for my new book, Mad Cow: A PTSD Love Story or connect with me on Instagram or Twitter.

The Pause

I’m finding that, besides my prayers for my children, The Pause is one of the best tools in my parenting arsenal. That moment before I speak is critical–will praise or criticism escape my lips? Will it undermine everything I’ve done that day? Will I speak scolding words or good ideas of how we can all do better?

When life is chaotic (aka, every minute of the day) The Pause makes all the difference for me.   

(If you can’t tell Baby Houdini is swinging from the handle in the car while we wait at the bus stop😮.) It’s so much better when I don’t I go off half-cocked before I’ve had a chance to accurately assess the situation. Often I tend to make up this parenting thing as I go. This can make me fun and spontaneous, like when we ruin our dinner with ice cream and skip cleaning to run away to the park. This can also be tricky in the crazy of four kids, each clamoring for the thing they need right this minute.  This is an accurate representation of how our picture-taking usually goes. Easter 2016 pic–pretty much the best we could do that day. 

Sometimes I forget The Pause and words come out sharper than I intend or my frustrations with another situation, a different kid or even just a rough PTSD day spill out. No one is a winner when that happens.  A decade plus into this parenting gig and I’m just now figuring out how valuable The Pause is, so I speak life into my children. So I encourage and grow these little humans into big humans that love Jesus, each other and try their best to leave this world better off than they found it. 

I don’t care what my kids end up doing for a living. I think it goes without saying that I prefer them to do a job that’s legal and doesn’t involve poles or dancing or something that requires a death wish. Other than that, I just want them to be productive citizens who know how to be kind and work hard. I want them to learn from my mistakes in parenting. 

I hope they will learn earlier in parenting than I did that taking a deep breath before answering the one million questions allotted per child per day is helpful. That counting to three before disciplining a child is imperative. That stopping to figure out what really went on before the he said/she said will help accurately diagnose both the problem and the solution. 

I am no expert at The Pause. I am still learning how to embrace it and use it in each situation with each kid. But I am a mama who doesn’t give up. My children are going to do great things in their lives and it is up to me to nourish those seeds of greatness with my prayers. And before I speak into them all the good and blessing and love and instruction that I am supposed to, I will give them–and myself–the benefit of The Pause. 

I’m happy to say I’m a work in progress-  (photo cred Good Morning Quote)

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hey! 

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 15

  (Photo credit unknown) 

My parents. They raised three kids while working full time, instilled values, work ethic and helped mold our faith and character. And now as grandparents they are involved in my kids’ lives and are part of their fabric. 

They are both technically senior citizens, so can I just say they don’t look or act their ages?! I hope I can live a life as full of faith, service to others, and making the most of every day like they do. I know not everyone gets to have their parents around or in their lives or be close–this makes me even more grateful. Love and appreciate y’all so much! 

#parents #grandparentsrock #nevertoooldtoneedyourparents

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015 

Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 13 (a little bit late)

I’m grateful I live in a country where I have access to health care. And I’m grateful for my husband’s sacrifices in his military career that provide me and our family with insurance.

And for Netflix and my parents watching my kiddos while I recover. And Mr. Wonderful for making sure I got home safely and have been fed during my recovery.  

 I’m blessed beyond measure.

(Photo credit ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

Top 10 Things I Wish I Would’ve Known About Adoption

I have four gorgeous children. Yes, I’m completely biased. I am blessed beyond measure with all these kids under one roof, even when I’m pulling my hair out at the noise or the mess. I don’t always remember that two are adopted and two are biological-they’re just all my kids. 

Here are a few things that I thought it might be helpful to share with those who are hoping to adopt, things I wish I would’ve known before adopting. It wouldn’t have changed anything for me, but maybe I wouldn’t have been so surprised about a few things.

1. People have BIG opinions about adoption. No matter where you turn, you’re going to hear the opinions of others. If you’re in the adoption process, you may already get this. Whether you should do an open or closed adoption. Whether you should adopt a baby or an older child. Whether you should adopt outside your race. Whether you should even adopt.

Many of these people expressing opinions about these matters are only on the fringe of adoption. They aren’t adopted nor have they ever adopted a child. My suggestion to you is smile and nod. You probably won’t change the mind of someone willing to express their opinion on a subject they have no personal experience with and since you don’t need their approval to adopt a child-smile and nod.

As for the rest, oftentimes well-meaning friends or family, know that they are probably expressing opinions out of love for you and fear at this unknown. Just stick to your guns on things you and your spouse or partner have already decided on. The opinions that matter are yours and your child’s.

2. You will have to tell perfect strangers everything about your life, marriage, finances, mistakes and education. If you are an intensely private person, this is painful. This type of sharing may create new wounds or open old ones. People get to adoption by many different paths; no two are exactly alike.

This means you may have to discuss things like miscarriage or failed IVF attempts or past marriages or youthful mistakes. None of that is fun, even with a caseworker or social worker who is kind and understanding. She’s still not your bff, who you haven’t even told some of this stuff to. It’s not easy but just keep telling yourself it’s one step closer to bringing your child home.

3. You will have to have parenting philosophies before you are a parent. Some of the questions we were asked at our home study were about our parenting philosophies. What?! We don’t have kids yet! How am I supposed to know my philosophies in a subject I haven’t even experienced? This is a lot like taking a test for a class you haven’t had. Tricky.

This takes some pondering and soul searching. How were you raised? Was it good or bad? Will you do some of the same things your parents did or go against the grain of what you know? These are heavy questions to wrestle with, especially when your answers are being graded.

4. There is a birth parent involved, even if you never meet. With my first son, we did an international adoption. There wasn’t a lot of information available about my son’s birth parents, so though I knew logically that they were involved at some point, I honestly didn’t think too much about them. I was more intent on showing my son the culture he came from rather than putting myself in the shoes of the birth parents.

With my second adoption, I actually got to meet and spend time with the birth mom, the birth grandma, and the birth great-grandma. My son’s birth mom was the person who placed my son in my arms for the first time. Talk about bittersweet.

As I felt my heart burst wide open at the joy of finally meeting my son, I felt his birth mom’s heart breaking wide open at the realization she was saying goodbye. We all cried and hugged and held hands and held the baby long past our allotted time. It was a special moment and a hard moment because it brought home the sacrifice she was making for her son. My son. Our son.

5. The questions don’t end once your child comes home. The personal questions you get asked during the adoption process are just the beginning. You will be asked questions, even in front of your child, that you may not have answers to because you could never have contemplated the question.

I have been asked point blank how much my children cost, if I ran a daycare, why their “real” parents didn’t want them, do they speak another language, why I didn’t have babies of “my own,” and congratulated on helping out someone less fortunate.

I now have answers to these questions. But at the time, I’m afraid my Mama Lionness came out and responded in a manner less than I would’ve liked. You may get asked offensive questions. Perhaps you’ll handle it better than I. Now I am trying to tame my tongue and always use the questions, even the offensive ones, as an opportunity to educate people about adoption. That seems to be the best thing I can do to protect my children and instill pride for their stories at the same time.

6. There comes a point where there’s nothing left for you to do. This is hard especially if you like things Just So. It’s hard to relinquish control over a situation you barely have any control over anyway. Being busy with paperwork and finding money for your adoption and telling people your good news takes up a lot of time. You can stay busy.

It’s when you’re paperwork is done and you’ve taken out a second mortgage to bring your child home and everyone knows and just keeps asking if you’ve heard anything (yes, and I just forgot to tell you!) that it’s especially hard. Which brings me to #7.

7. The waiting place is the hardest place to be. Oh this place! There are a lot of points at which you’re waiting in adoption: waiting for paperwork to be filed, waiting on funds, waiting for home study results, waiting to hear anything from anybody about how much longer this thing is going to take because you just want to BRING YOUR CHILD HOME!

And the waiting place at the end where you question everything-will it work, will this all go through, is this really going to be my child-is hands down the toughest place in the adoption process. You have no idea how far you are from the end and your heart aches for your child and your arms long to hold him or her. 

It. Is. Hard. 

But it will pass the moment you get to hold your child and hug him or her tightly. And like the pains of labor, it is all but forgotten once your child is home.

8. There will be an adjustment period. Ok, your adoption agency probably warns you about this but I want to reiterate it. Especially if you’re a first time parent. Whether you adopt a baby or an older child, prepare yourself to have to adjust. The child will have to adjust. You and your spouse or partner will have to adjust, making room in your relationship for the parent parts of you. It will happen in its time, make sure to give yourselves a break.

And you may have Mama brain. For me this was very similar to pregnancy brain. The act of labor over an adoption and how full your head and heart are at the idea of a child becoming yours takes up so much space you will find yourself distracted or forgetful. This is totally normal and I’m afraid to say it doesn’t ever really go away.

9. Things probably won’t go as you planned. Again if you like things Just So, this is hard. There will be snags in the adoption process. Some of them may be like steel traps that you can’t find a way out of at first. There will also be snares and knots in the coming home and adjustment period.

This is ok.

You will survive the adoption process and you will figure out how to be a brand new family knitting itself together. As a woman of faith looking back over my adoption processes, it’s hard for me to believe in coincidence. I got exactly the right children at exactly the right time. Which leads to…

10. You will be blessed beyond anything measurable by our feeble human ways. These children, the ones that other mothers bore and gave to me are the greatest gifts I can ever receive. They came from all over the world and I’m often humbled at the idea that I was chosen-yes, chosen-to be their Mama. That my adopted and biological children would mesh and blend and play and fight and love each other as best friends thrills me with a sort of holy gratitude.

God had a plan for all my babies and he has entrusted me to help them find their gifts and then their destinies. 

I’m so honored that I’m their Mama.

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Top 10 Reasons It’s Awesome Being an Older Parent

1. Your memory is not that great anymore but that’s okay. It just means you forget nearly as soon as it happens when your kid floods the bathroom, or finger paints all over the house.

2. Remember the jobs you had in your early 20s? Being a sandwich artist, part-time musician/student, and playing piano for a boys’ choir were some of the job highlights of my early 20s. I’m just sayin’.
3. What you lack in energy you make up for in wisdom. Now instead of jumping up to go get the baby from his bed when he’s crying, I just send the oldest kid to do it.
4. No one mistakes you for the babysitter.
5. You know how to enjoy things. You don’t rush around anymore, mostly because you can’t.

6. You have had a professional life, so you know getting people to do what you want is nearly impossible. This is very helpful with children.

7. You’ve paid for the mistakes you made in your 20s that were reflected on your credit score. It’s possible you may even own a home now.
8. All of the money you blew on shoes and alcohol and other luxury items for yourself now goes to a good cause: your kids.
9. You are more patient than you were in your 20s and 30s. This is because you are more tired.

10. Your children can serve as your IT people. Let’s face it, they already know more about technology than you ever will.
Being an older parent is the best gift I’ve ever given myself. It doesn’t matter that I squandered part of my youth; my kids are showing me every day what it’s like to be young at heart. How to take a moment. How to enjoy the present.
I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world. This is exactly where I need to be.

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015