Juxtapose

I’m sitting at a coffee shop across the street from my therapist’s office, waiting to go over there in about a half an hour. I go every two weeks. Nothing quite shows me how full my life is of all sorts of activities and drama like having therapy every couple weeks.

Before I go I have to try and think through all that has happened in the last two weeks so I don’t waste that time in therapy. And there’s always so much. What do I even choose to talk about?


The end of the school year is an emotional time. One of our girls graduated high school a little over a week ago. The night before graduation I gave her a heartfelt nine page letter that I had written for her with thoughts and insights and wisdom. (Much of which I have learned from Fred Rogers). She took the letter and immediately went into another room to read it.

She came running to me after she had read it and gave me a huge hug, sobbing into my shoulder. It was a touching moment, for sure. A meaningful one.

But about 24 hours later she left our home, once again with hugs and tears. But she left with plans of going out with a couple of her friends, their boyfriends, and her own boyfriend, a boy that we had tried to keep her away from during the school year. Someone she knows that my wife and I most definitely do not approve of her being with.

It’s hard to know how to handle that sort of situation. The seeming gratefulness, respect and appreciation that she showed us for taking care of her, for loving her, for pouring our lives into her, and then flat out doing something she knows we’d strongly disapprove of.

It’s the juxtaposition of the two (or more) faces of these teenagers that is hard to work with. We’ve had to learn to not take it personally, and to expect that this is usually how it is.

Does it change how we care and love for them?

No. We do it anyway. And we’ll be here when she stumbles, falls, or fails and needs to be picked up again.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/juxtapose/

 

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Rapid

In two weeks two of our eight girls will move out of our home.

One girl is graduating from high school, and the other is leaving successfully to go back and live with her mom and siblings.

I have a whirl of conflicting emotions twirling and swirling within me. I am happy for them. But I am also very nervous about their success. I pour my life and my heart and my soul into these girls. I root for them. I cheer them on. I have the hard talks with them. I tell them things that no other person has told them in their entire lives.

I love these girls. I want to see them to leave from our home and make good decisions. I want them to choose good friends. I want them to know how incredible they truly are on the inside, and to live out from that part of themselves.

These last few days are already moving at too rapid of a pace. I’m trying to cherish each moment.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/rapid/

Vague

So it ends up that the changes I’ve made in my life recently are only chapter one in my journey to make healthier routines in my life. I

Get up and out of bed when the kids get up.
Write at my desk each morning in my office as they play together.
Attend individual therapy twice a month.

Those have been good, but they’re clearly just the start.


My wife has been making positive changes in her life, too. She’s been on a diet in which she eats very little sugar and almost entirely natural foods. She’s been doing really well with it thus far. She’s also been going to the gym everyday and attending classes and working out.

That has been a huge step for her. She’s really proud of her progress, and so am I. It’s been quite impressive to see her devoting herself to these routines.


As Sarah has been at the gym, I’ve been taking time to learn photography techniques and read about the history of photography. I recently got a roll of black and white film for one of my film cameras to shoot while I’m out and about. I also got a backdrop stand with a couple fabric backdrops for portraits.

I’m getting more comfortable with my confidence as a photographer. Knowing what I like. Knowing what my style is. Knowing how a picture will look before I take it.

Hollywood Candy

Phone booth

Hollywood Candy


Over the weekend I decided that I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made thus far, but much more still needs to be done. I like specific achievable goals. I’m not really a fan of vague or general goals that don’t have measurable successes.

So I decided that there were some significant changes that I needed to make in regards to the time that I spend with my wife. Because my wife and I are co-workers working in our own home boundaries are blurred between our work life and our personal life. But it’s been more and more clear to me that our time together has been very much work-centric. And that has made it hard to have quality personal time with each other. And then we end up getting into arguments or disagreements about what should have gotten done during the day or who should do what.

I just need to be wiser with how I budget my time.

I spend way too much time on Facebook and Twitter. And although I have for years fought against people just stopping using it because it truly is an amazing tool to connect with others around the world, I decided that it was taking up too much of my brain energy and time, especially during the times I’m with Sarah.

So I disabled my Facebook account completely and deleted my Twitter account off phone, which is the only place I really use it.

I’ve also decided that I need to get more sleep by simply going to bed earlier. After a long day I feel like I deserve to stay up and do some things that I want to do before bed, but then I end up staying up to midnight or later. My kids often get up before 6:00 am, so that’s a draining schedule to keep.

I’m a better person if I just go to bed earlier.

Lastly, I’ve decided that Sarah and I need to discuss our schedule at the start of each day so we know who is doing what, when it needs to happen, and how. So that we don’t blame each other when various things don’t get done.

These three things I think are a good chapter two in my journey of changes and healthier routines. We’ll see how they go!


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/vague/

Explore

Right now I’m trying to explore some of the negative voices within me, especially the ones related to parenting. I am constantly on edge of being judged for my parenting. At the root of that fear is a deep-seated voice that I tell myself:

“You are a bad parent.” 

I am at the beginning of this exploration, and it is a task that has been given to me through my conversation with my therapist yesterday.

I like to think I have control over the various elements that make up my daily life. The thing about having a four and a five year old is that they are wildly unpredictable. Anything could set them off. They are energetic balls of curiosity. Add the fact that my five year old has special needs which impact his personality, temper, and ability to cope…well, things get out of control very easily.

And that is nerve-racking for me.

Going out to eat is a stressful activity for me. Keeping them sitting down, quiet, eating their food is a chore and a half. And I find myself comparing our kids to other family’s kids who are sitting like little angels eating all their food as if it’s the greatest meal they’ve ever had in their little lives.

I can get my kids calm by letting them have our phones to play games and watch weird YouTube videos of kids unboxing toys or something. But society tells me that if I do this too often my kids will grow up to be sociopaths, 2+2=17, and that the sky is green.

So I feel guilty when I let my kids use my phone to control their behaviors and attention. But I feel miserable if they are not sitting down quietly.

So shame, guilt, perceived judgment, and self-judgment are all swirling in one nice mess in my soul. And I carry that around. I feel like I have no good options.

When my son Micah, who has a rare genetic disorder, struggles with his behaviors out and about I feel like I want to defend him, (or maybe it’s me), that it’s because he has sensory issues.

I’m at the beginning of this journey. Some of what is going on is obvious. Some is not.

Dealing with the emotions and the tantrums of my seven teenagers is much easier and than dealing with the emotions and tantrums of my two preschoolers.

Anyone else think preschoolers are harder than teenagers? Or maybe by the time your kids are teenagers you’ve forgotten just how hard it was to have preschoolers.

Anyway.

Pray for me y’all. Appreciate it.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/explore/

Identical

It’s good to be reminded of the successes.

One of the youth that graduated successfully from our home and is now attending her freshman year at University of Nebraska stopped by and hung out with us for a while last night. She hasn’t had the easiest path in life by any means, but she’s really developed some great skills along her journey. And she’s doing well, overall. We’re so proud of her.

When she lived with us, our oldest son Micah referred to her as “best friend.” Even when she visited us yesterday, that’s how he greeted her. I think she’ll always be special to us because she was our first graduate, and she has a successful story thus far. And Micah’s first “best friend.”

It’s easy to get caught up with the unsuccessful stories. Those are the ones that nag for our attention and energy. They try to bring us down. But these girls are the 1% of the toughest kids in this country that are in group homes and foster care in. The stories these kids have and the trauma they carry with them will tear your heart out. And not a single one is identical.

I’ve now observed the resiliency of humans up close. I’ve also witnessed those who have been so torn down in life that they have lost so much hope that they can’t envision a positive future for themselves. And that’s part of our job. Day in and day out I talk and work with these girls to help them understand their worth, not defined by someday making a lot of money or graduating from college, but rather I talk about their worth as a human right now, no matter what has happened to them in their past.

These girls live lives in the arena.

Their faces are marred by dust and sweat and blood;
they strive valiantly;
they err, they come short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but they actually strive to do the deeds;
they know great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
they spend themselves in a worthy cause;
they at their best know in the end the triumph of high achievement, and they at their worst, if they fail, at least they fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

And I choose to enter in with them, to help them when they fall and to encourage them when they succeed. Together we ignore the critics around us, those not willing to step into the arena themselves. Their voices may be loud, but their critiques are empty.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/identical/

 

Wrinkle

Even when I have a day off or lots of free time I usually am content to simply stay home and lounge about. But very few memories have come from staying home. Those sorts of days all blur together. But when I take advantage of the opportunities to get out of the house with family or friends it gives opportunity to make memories.

Yesterday the temperature squeaked past 60 degrees. Looking ahead at the forecast I only saw cold and rainy days ahead and I knew that we all needed to enjoy this weather while we still could.

Sarah asked me if I wanted to go to the park with her and the boys and it was an easy “yes.” I grabbed my camera and we headed off to the park to enjoy the last couple hours of good sunlight and warmth in the air.

When I have an experience I like to think I’ve created another little wrinkle on my brain, one where I process and take in the moments of my children getting older. The moments seeing Sarah laugh with our kids as they play together in the glow of golden hour.

These are the moments that I like to look back to when things get busy or hard. I go back to that wrinkle to recall the laughs and the joy of those moments. Moments I would not have to look back on had we chosen to simply stay home.

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https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/wrinkle/

Typical

This has been a very long winter. It has only snowed a handful of times, but there have been long stretches of frigid temperatures that makes time feel like its moving in slow motion.

This weekend however we had a couple days of unseasonably warm weather. On Saturday it got up to 67. So we loaded up our van and headed over to a trail just across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa. We hiked along the bluffs near the Lewis and Clarke monument that overlooks the ground below and out across the river into Omaha. It’s quite a grand view, especially for a place like Iowa. (No offense to you Hawkeyes!)

It was very muddy, but that made the hike all that more fun. We squished and squashed our way through the woods. Our boys were loving the hike as well. Perhaps one of their very first hikes.

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As we goofed around with our girls, taking pictures, laughing, slipping in the mud it felt like one big happy family. A typical one. We were out just enjoying life together. And it felt great.

The next day our neighbors gave us a call asking if we’d be interested in a kickball game, and so we all went out to the nearby softball field and played kickball for the afternoon. Everyone was out enjoying the weather, staying active, laughing together.

Some days my life feels really hard and the emotional requirements to deal with some of the situations that arise in our job seem overwhelming. But my batteries feel fully recharged after a weekend like this. It didn’t feel like a job at all. And although that is rare, it is extremely life-giving and sustaining.

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https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/typical/

Fabric

I have these moments in my job where I’m like, “Wow. This is my life right now.”

Due to the fact that I live in a house full of teenage girls, I end up saying that a lot. I had no idea that at 31 I would know so much about teenage makeup, hair, slang, pop music, and fashion.

Up until very recently the school’s dress code did not allow for jeans with rips or tears in them. But now they allow for it, if they wear leggings underneath. The other day I saw one of my girls wearing some torn jeans about to head out the door for school, but the threads of the fabric were still thick enough that I couldn’t tell if she was wearing leggings underneath.

So I told her to stand before me and bend her knees back and forth so I could see if I could see through the tears.

So here is this seventeen year old girl standing in front of me bending her knees up and down just so I can determine if she needs to wear leggings under her jeans to school. Recognizing the silliness of the scene, I leaned over to another one of my girls and said, “Wow. This is my life right now.”

She laughed, “Yep! It is!”

I could see through the holes in the jeans, so she had to go back and put on some leggings.

Life as a “dad” for eight teenage girls leads to dozens and dozens of these sorts of situations.

I still remember the first big moment was when I was out at Levi’s store near Christmas in our first year, just a few months into the job, and all my girls were trying on jeans in the dressing room and coming out and asking me impossible questions like, “Do these jeans make my butt look fat?” and “Are these jeans too tight in the thighs?”

And at that moment I said out loud, “Wow. This is my life right now. This is not what I was expecting I’d have to do when I signed up for this!”

But now these sorts of moments have become just a part of life where I can kind of laugh and say, somewhat in jest because they know the rules and expectations, “You’re not leaving the house like that are you?!” or “That makeup is a little much. Why don’t you cool it on the wings a bit.”

While I’m bringing this up, let me say that I am very intentional about not shaming our girls for the things they wear and the makeup they put on. But we are also teaching them to not seek negative attention. It’s about finding the balance between their own individual style and fashion, social appropriateness, and following the dress code rules.

This is indeed my life. But for most of our girls, I’m one of the very few if not the only adult male influences in their life. So it’s a privilege to be that for them. I’m thankful for all the dad moments I get to experience with them.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fabric/

 

Imagination

My wife and I constantly wonder what the future looks like for our five year old son. He has a very rare genetic syndrome called “Kabuki Syndrome.”

There are a couple support groups on Facebook that allow us to see possible futures. It’s hard to really know, though, because individuals that have Kabuki syndrome differ quite dramatically from one another. Some have severe mental and physical disabilities. Some have mild disabilities. And there’s everything in between.

Many people within the support group say there’s a look that kids with Kabuki syndrome have. After all, Kabuki syndrome gets its name from the facial features oftentimes resembling the makeup and eyebrows of Japanese Kabuki theater actors.

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Not all kids or adults have the look, however.

As we follow the support group we see kids and adults all over the world who have the syndrome. Their stories are often very different from one another. There’s the elementary school girl who has a crush on a very kind boy in her class who recently gave her all sorts of chocolates and a sweet card for Valentine’s day. There’s the man in his twenties who works in England, seemingly doing ok and living independently. There’s the posts of kids who have to go in for their fifth, sixth, seventeenth surgery.

Out of all the posts and pictures we’ve seen over the last couple years, there really haven’t been too many kids, young or old, who have looked very much like Micah. Last night before bed, as Sarah was scrolling through Facebook, she gasped as she came across a post from a man in his twenties that she felt looked a lot like Micah.

“He seems to be doing ok. He graduated from high school and went to a college for a couple years.”

It’s hard for me to imagine. I want to be able to imagine a world where Micah is able to be living independently, going to college, doing well for himself. I’m not sure my imagination is able to get there, at least not yet.

Right now I’m too overwhelmed by not even being able to get him dressed for school without him throwing a horrible temper tantrum. I’m too stressed out by the fact that I can’t really leave him and his almost four year old brother alone for more than a couple minutes at a time without them destroying things in the house.

I can’t imagine a day where Micah’s behaviors are calm enough that I don’t have to tell him to be quiet during dinner or to stay seated in his chair. I can’t imagine a day where he sleeps in until 7:00am. I can’t imagine a day where I can understand all the things he is trying to tell me.

I want to have that sort of imagination. I do. But right now it just feels like too much.

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This post in response to WordPress’s daily prompt:
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/imagination/

If you’d like to read more about my son’s journey, you can read about him on my blog:
http://amseaman.com

Congregate

Sundays were what I looked forward to every week when I was a kid. There was no school. There were sports to watch on TV. My family was all home together. But the primary reason I liked Sundays growing up was because Sundays meant church.

I don’t remember many, or perhaps any, of the sermons I heard over the years, but the sermons were not why I liked church. I liked church because it was a time each week when my family was together. It was a time where I got to be a part of something that felt bigger than myself. It was a time each week when the world just seemed to make more sense.

I’d dress up a bit, wearing some of my nicest clothes. My dad would wear a tie. My mom and sister wore dresses. We’d drive the twenty minutes through town and past some cornfields to get to our little community church.

On the way in we’d be greeted by some incredibly nice people, welcoming us to the week’s service. We knew almost all the families that attended, so everything felt familiar and safe. Eventually all the families would congregate as one large church family and we’d sing and worship together. This still stands out as a special memory from childhood.

I can remember the scent of my dad’s deodorant as I leaned up against him during the sermon. I remember doodling in notebooks while the pastor preached. (I still have those notebooks in a box of journals.)

It was a special time in my life for me because outside of church my family was rarely together like this. And it didn’t last forever. It wasn’t too much longer after my brother was born that my family started attending a different church, and then my dad attended a different church than my mom. And then eventually I would go to a separate church from my dad and my mom and sister. A fragmented church-attending family.

As strange as that was, we would always still come together after our various church services for lunch. Sunday lunch was something that we always did as a family, from the time I was a young boy until I left for college. It was an unspoken expectation that we would all be there.

We’d talk about our church services. What we liked. What we didn’t like. What our plans were for the day. This is simply what we did every Sunday. And it stands out as a precious memory of my childhood.

Now on Sundays our girls who are Catholic go to their church, and our Protestant girls go to theirs. Once the services are over we come back to the house together to have a nice big brunch as a family. We discuss the services at each church and talk about what we learned or what the sermon made us think about as well as how to apply the lessons to our own lives.

It’s a special time each week for me, and I hope it is for our girls as well.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/congregate/