On Abortion

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Yeah, I am going there today.

I was going to write it last Saturday. The day of the Women’s March. I chickened out. If you are reading this, I found some gumption. I will do my best to be kind. I pray that you will also.


My blood pressure rises just hearing the word. See I am a Christian. I am pro-life. I am also pro-choice. Maybe that makes you mad. Maybe I can’t be both. I don’t know. Maybe it’ll make sense at the end of this. Maybe it won’t. Grace will cover it regardless.

I’ve been sad all week. I saw my friends march in the Women’s March. I saw the leaders deny a spot for the pro-life movement. I saw anger on the side of those that felt that all lives matter. I’ve watched the pro-life movement plan marches around their causes. I’ve seen anger on the side of the pro-choice movement. I’ve watched dear friends get into arguments online. I’ve watched on the sideline as acquaintances talk about losing momentum in their social media followers. I’ve seen very little of anything to do with Christ and that’s why, this particular post, is written to those that follow him. If that is not you, please know this is not written for you.


This has to stop.

Did you know legal abortions have declined over the last three decades?

That the number of providers has also declined?

That rates are increasingly concentrated for low income minority woman?

Did you know that access to healthcare, preventative services and education can keep those numbers down?

Do you know what doesn’t keep those numbers down?

Guilt and Shame.


I am the mama of two boys that could easily have been one of those statistics. I have been asked more than once what we will do if their birth mama gets pregnant again. I will say this once- and I will say this loud-

They are all welcome here.

All. Of. Them. 

No questions. No guilt. No shame.

I am not in a place to share her story. It is not mine to tell. I can tell you that our baby is here because she knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he would be loved beyond measure. That he would be treated as our very own because she already saw us do it once. Because that’s how we have treated her as well.

Can you honestly say that your signs and your marches make her feel that way? Do you honestly believe that social media will help save the lives of those “55 million” children you seem to care so much about?

Sitting by the creek with a homeless child of God, listening, caring, loving- that certainly does.


There were 402,378 children placed into foster care in the US in 2013. One statistics states that in 2012 there were 397,122 living without permanent families in the system. The average wait time for them to find those families? 3+ years.

If 7% (SEVEN) of the world’s Christians adopted an (one) orphan, there would be none left.

If we, Christians, can’t be trusted to truly love the 100,000+ kids in foster care waiting to be adopted, who can be?

If you were pregnant, without much hope hungry and poor, would you trust the Christians to take care of you and your babies? Christians, would you trust yourselves?


If the biggest factor for women is access to health care and preventative services, and you don’t seem to trust planned parenthood one bit, are you willing to step up? Will you pay for their birth control?  Do you know who “them” even are?

Because if you aren’t, you have no right to hold that sign.

Are we training our young men to be courageous warriors that respect women, not just as objects but as God’s creation, as his treasured daughters?

Because women don’t just randomly get pregnant.

Are you willing to feed these children? To clothe them? To tell them every day how much God loves them and cares for them and doesn’t hate them. Are you willing to cry with them? To raise them? To meet their physical and emotional needs? Are you willing to treat them as Christ taught us to? When he talked to the woman at the well. When he tossed the tables at the temple. When he spoke time and time again about widows and orphans and the poor.

Are you?

Are you willing to stop with the guilting and the shaming?

Because the last I read, guilt and shame had very little to do with Christ.

Grace upon Grace upon Grace does.

Mercy does.

While we were still sinners, in the midst of our sin,

that.

Remember that one?

Cause it wasn’t written for them. It was written for us.


As far as I am concerned, there is no place for those signs and those infographics and the prevention of resources or any of this hullabaloo in our roles as followers of Christ.

There is plenty of space to meet actual needs with the resources we have. There is room for honorary aunts and honorary mama’s and friendships that cross cultural barriers. There is room for walking alongside our sisters as they fight and struggle. There is room for raising our boys to be men. There is room for our men to be involved in this conversation in the first place.

If we’ve learned anything from the Bible, let it be that our trust need not be in governments or governmental policies. In decisions in the supreme court or by our state leaders.

I’m pro-choice because my hope is in one thing alone.

I’m pro-life because we are all part of God’s workmanship.

I will keep fighting and feeding and holding. I will drive to the creek when I really don’t want to. Our home will be open to the least of these. We will mess up, most days dramatically, but we will keep trusting and keep trying.

Until we are all there, Christians, there is no room for our American-White-Middle Class rhetoric.

By all means, march away. But know the world is watching.

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On Breastfeeding (Or, On Depression. Also, on Beauty)

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I sat at a coffee shop with a friend recently. She told me (and I can’t remember the context) that I was, in fact, a writer. I told her that was silly. And then, in what I can only imagine is true writer fashion, told her about all the things I had in mind to write about. This topic was one of them. The end point of this article is the result of that conversation. I hope you enjoy.

I hope you enjoy.


When I was first pregnant with our oldest I read an article in a pregnancy magazine about perception on public breastfeeding. It said (this was 10 years ago) that 75% of people felt that nursing in public was inappropriate and made them feel uncomfortable. I shared it with Joe who immediately agreed. Poor guy. I’m pretty sure I ranted for a while after that one. But it stuck with me and when B was born, I wasn’t sure what to do. I think in my head I would just hide away in a hole whenever he was hungry. So I did. We couldn’t afford formula so I plugged along, nursing in half confidence but not aware of any other options. I’ll never forget being at a work party with a 3-week old baby and, not finding anywhere I could go, went to the car to nurse. In the dark by myself.

Fast forward a few years and I had nursed both my babies way past the one year mark and most definitely in public. I had gained confidence in my approach to mothering and, what proved most valuable, finding a group of others like myself.

My daughter never had a single drop of formula.

And, for that, I was proud.

I think many of you can see where this is going. Our first placement came and I went to the store, kids in tow, to find the formula aisle of the store. I found a bottle and hoped that I would make it right. I knew I was “sometimes” mom and that was ok. I did my job without thinking twice.

“Oh, that’s so sad you have to give him formula!” –on one of our first outings

“is the formula any good? where does it come from? I mean, foster care” –a few months after Voxx’s placement.

Doubt crept in just a little bit at a time. Until, one day, at a family camp with our newest little one, I found myself hiding the Similac bottle so those mamas wouldn’t see.

I’m not proud of that.

Along this journey, I found out that there are a million and one awesome adoptive mama’s that have found ways around the formula conundrum. And that doubt, those insecurities kept building. These mamas have spent hours rounding up donated milk. They have appealed to the state to get milk from the hospital. They have induced lactation in their own bodies and nursed those babies as their own.

And I, I never even asked.


A few months ago I did ask. So we tried it.

And it sucked.


I don’t know what I was hoping for. But God certainly had a lesson in humility for me. Humility and compassion. The medicine I was on started a depression that went hard and deep. I couldn’t feel happy.  I was spending every hour either pumping or feeding (formula still, mind you). My kids were left to fend for themselves after finally getting through a season of self-fending. My toddler was a mess. Tantrums lasting upwards of 2 hours. And my marriage- well- it was holding on by a super fine thread.

So we stopped.

The point I am trying desperately to get to is this: For me, stopping the medication helped me feel back to normal. For some of you, taking the medication makes you feel normal.  For others of you, deciding to take that that medication means you can’t nurse. And what I want you to hear is that- that is more than ok. Taking care of your body because you too are human is not just good- it’s beautiful.


I saw a post on social media that was something along the lines of “fed is best.” You can only guess the hullabaloo this caused. Breast is best. There is no comparison. You are a failure as a mother. You are poisoning your children. There is no such thing as good formula.  It was bad.

I am so grateful that even though we have a way to come, nursing in public is generally supported. I am grateful that we can see as a society the beauty in a mother feeding her children. Those images of the mama and baby nursing and the tree of life connecting them? Beautiful.

I am so grateful we have scientists that struggled to find the right combination of minerals and vitamins to not only keep our kids alive but to thrive. I am grateful that our country will make sure that newborns have food via programs like WIC. Regardless of race or income. The powder that we mix with clean water to nourish our babies? It’s time we start saying what it truly is- a beautiful mystery.

You know your homebirth perfectly documented. The moments in your home surrounded by only those that care deeply about you while you bring a new soul to this side of the earth? Beautiful.

You know your c-section. The one that wasn’t planned. Or the one that was. The one that the doctors used their knowledge and professionalism to bring your baby into this world? It’s time to stop saying “I’m sorry” when we hear that story and start calling it something else- What a beautiful story.


To the father feeding their child on a regular basis. In the middle of the night, night after night after night.

To the mama pumping and pumping and pumping for her baby that won’t latch right. Doing this because she knows, somewhere, that it’s worth it.

To the mama sitting in the NICU, hearing those god forsaken beeps over and over and over. Those cords. That IV. Those nurses.

To the mama whose heart is broken beyond relief.

To the mama whose heart is stretched more than she thought possible.

To the mama in wait. Waiting and waiting and waiting.

To the papa desperately searching the aisle for the right can of formula.

For the mama’s heart broken on a thread of hurtful words in the middle of the afternoon.

all little, teeny tiny inklings of beauty.


If we stop and look, we can start to see the beauty in all the things the world tells us are wrong. The things that suck. The things we aren’t proud of. There is beauty in my biological children’s story. There is beauty in my adopted children’s stories. The point is not that it’s just there, but when we see it, when we really truly see it, we won’t be quite so quick to hide in the car. We won’t be nearly as ashamed of the branding on the bottle. We will be better mothers for it. Better fathers. Better friends when we lift up their stories as something of value regardless of ideology. It’s not about being a nursing mom or a bottle mom or a homebirth mom or a c-section mom or a homeschool mom or a public school mom.

It’s about being a human. 

The tiniest sparkle of a beautiful story.

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On Trade-Offs

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I recently read through the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. In a paragraph that sums up the essence of his book he says:

“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.” -McKeown

It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time.

It’s a book written for business folk, not necessarily the stay at home crowd. My husband laughed just about every time I quoted some business model from the book. It didn’t take me long to see how our home could run better.

In one of my favorite parts, the author states:

 “As John Maxwell has written, You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” -McKeown

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

We all make trade-offs with just about everything we do. If we decide to sit on the couch and watch tv, the trade off is a productive evening. If we decide to work at home, the trade-off is rest. We decide to do the dishes so that we have clean ones when we need them. We make a decision to go to the store and shop for fun. The trade-off is the amount of money in your savings.

Not entirely rocket science.

I think when I started realizing that the countless decisions I make in a day matter to my long-term goals, making those decisions became that much easier.

When I do the dishes, I make the decision to not spend time with my kids. When I read to my kids in the middle of the day I am making a conscience decision to wait to rotate the laundry.

And that matters- because- well- perspective.

It’s not about what I didn’t do that day but about what I did do. 

I read to my kids. We played outside. We made scones. We walked along the creek. We worked on felted leaves. We had dinner together at the table.

Not: My kitchen is a disaster. We don’t have any clean shirts. So and So got into a fight with whomever. We didn’t finish practicing instruments. We didn’t mop the floors. Dinner is cereal, again.

While the reality is both those perspectives are true, the first one has a much different focus. And, let’s be honest, it’s not nearly as defeating as the second.

“Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?” -McKeown

Most of you reading this are not executives at a huge company. We are Moms and Dads. We are homemakers and foster parents. We work part time and full time and go to the store with our kids in tow. We run small businesses and raise not so small army’s of children. We look at pinterest and IG and drink coffee before 4 and wine after 5.

What do you want to go big on? 

Do you want to read to your kids?

Do you want to model hospitality?

Do you want them to learn an instrument?

Do you want them to speak a language?

Do you want your kitchen clean?

Do you want sparkly floors?

Do you want financial security?

Do you want snazzy looking kids?

We can’t do everything and anything all the time. You can though, pick one or two of those things on the list.


I overhead a conversation at a party recently. “We are just so busy. I can’t believe I did that to myself again. We have soccer and gymnastics and (insert activity) and (insert another activity) and (insert the cherry on top activity.) It wasn’t said with sadness or embarrassment though. It was almost a celebration. Which did, in fact, make me sad.

“What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?” -McKeown

I think that’s what I want. What I want to go big on. A celebration of the time I spent listening, on the floor, playing with my kids. The time spent writing and thinking. The time with my husband. The time I spent with my friends.

There are trade-offs. It means my house will rarely be clean. It means my kids will miss out on sports most seasons. It means we trade off money in our account for a sitter and drinks. It means we say no to a whole lot more than we say yes too.

I don’t want you to put us on a pedestal. It’s Sunday and my floors are sticky, my sink is full and I haven’t looked at the calendar for the week. I went to the store and totally forgot to buy coffee for the morning. I am feeling as frazzled as frazzled can be. Knowing I have four kids to feed and educate and love on in the morning. Ones that don’t care how much sleep I got or how much time I would like to “think.” One’s that will most certainly care that their mom didn’t get her coffee yet.

But I know that when I remember that almost everything is unimportant, I can focus on the actually important parts.

Some days, it’s cleaning the kitchen, yes.

But other days it’s a stack full of picture books.

It’s just never going to be both.

I’ll leave you with one more quote:

“Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.” -McKeown

What really matters right now?

Do that.

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On Homelessness

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Or, alternatively, on being “Home Free”


I will never forget the first time I heard the term “Home Free.”  We were in the hospital, meeting our new little bit, checking in on Mom, and introducing the siblings. Bio Dad said it in passing.  How they identified their living situation, not as a political statement, just as a descriptor.

How ridiculous, I thought.  Just a fancy word for what it is- living on the street.

As in, free from mortgages and rent and an address. Free from taxes and jobs and adult responsibilities. You can laugh. I certainly did.

At least until I saw the birth certificate. Under “address” it said:

“Home Free”

No joke.

A very intentional, very deliberate, very vision oriented way they live their life.


I’ve had a handful of experiences helping in shelters serving food. A handful of times that I’ve had “care bags” in my car ready to give. I’ve been the one to hand out cash on occasion. Hot coffee if it’s ridiculously cold out. Candy if we have it.

I’ve also been the one to ignore. Look away. Pull into the lane farthest away. Lock the doors.


I think, for those of us that live in White Middle-Class America, we are missing quite a lot of perspective.

They are our “mission field” They need our help. They need food. They need a leg up. They fell on “hard times.”

Or they are to be avoided. They are dangerous. Drug Addicts. They are irresponsible burdens on our society. They waste our taxpayer money.

They. 

You know the ones. The ones that aren’t Us. 


A few months later I had the chance to just sit with her again, my friend this time.   We were talking about how she was doing. How the weather was. How much time they had before it got too cold. She wanted me to know that the hospital misunderstood her when they asked how much she smoked while she was pregnant. She wanted me to know how much she hates the “soul stealing” drugs. She was hurt beyond measure by relationships in her family. She talked about her “habit” (a legal one in the state of CO) and she talked about other people’s “habits.” I learned that you can get by on $20 a day if your habit is Marijuana. $80+ if it’s cocaine. I learned which neighborhoods she avoids. I learned that, apparently, you can ask someone  what their habit is and chances are they will tell you. She said it’s usually good to do that before you give them money. That it is a totally acceptable question to ask. She said she usually earns quite a bit more money by telling people it’s weed. (Take what you want from that). I learned that cigarettes are crazy expensive and they are rationed.

I learned that the new rules in our county on a ban on camping weren’t affecting them so much. As long as they don’t get caught “nodding” they are good to go. Her friend did- just the other day.

I learned quite a bit that day. But most importantly, I learned something that I wasn’t expecting,

She was happy.

She was so glad to see the boys. So happy to give me a glimpse into her life. To have an “outsider” listen. She didn’t want money or food or a ride anywhere. I didn’t ask- boundaries and all- but she didn’t ask either.


I don’t know what if, or how, these words will impact you today. I write them sitting in an expensive coffee shop, drinking expensive tea, typing on my expensive computer. I’ll probably go to the store and buy food even though my fridge isn’t empty. I’ll drive my expensive car that costs a ton to fill up with gas and I won’t even blink.

But I do want you to know that nothing will ever change if our perspective stays the same. This mattered to me because she is my friend. Because he is my friend. My home free friends that live by the creek in the summer.


Those small things matter. The meals. The money. The warm beds in the middle of winter.

There are individuals who ask for help and we should jump at the chance to help them.

And there are individuals that are dangerous.

But when we see them as what they are- what all of us are- a beautiful masterpiece- it stops being about us- and starts being about HIM.

Grace and Perspective. Vision and Clarity. Freedom. Unlikely friendships. I can only hope that we can live in the same very intentional, very deliberate, very vision oriented way. They have a lot to teach us. I pray that Grace shines through our conversations and time together. In our emails and pictures. In our years together.

Home Free.

I like it.

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On Wherever You Are

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I have grand plans most Tuesdays.

It’s the day I take off my “homeschool mom” hat. Today I was going to write about homelessness on the blog. I had planned on mopping,  scrubbing the downstairs bathroom, and putting away the laundry. I was also going to do yoga, take a shower and finish my knitting project. Collect money for book club and finish the last touches before tomorrow was high on the list. Oh, and make the pizza crust for dinner. (+ do the dishes, put away the vegetables, figure out what smells and find my 5-year-olds shoes)

Ha. It was a nice thought.

I’ve been on the couch with a newborn watching The Goldbergs and typing one handed for 2 1/2 hours.

So dear friend, wherever you are right now, be there.

There’s nowhere else you are supposed to be. 

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On Adoption

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“He looks just like you guys! That totally worked out!”

I  have no business writing anything today.

I’m exhausted.

And by exhausted, I mean, well, exhausted.

This week we got to do the thing we’ve been waiting 18+ months to do. To legally, permanently, offer up our home to the boy that was born to another woman.

The one that looks just like us.

((Which, for the record, is not a “worked out” thing, whatever that is supposed to mean.))


I wish there was a word that meant both congratulations and I’m sorry for your loss.


Adoption is hard.

It’s like a pregnancy where you don’t know the due date for, that takes 2 years of your life, and stretches your heart way beyond anything stretch marks or labor could do.

Foster Care is hard.

It’s like adoption only you aren’t their forever family, you have to do all the crap parts of parenting, and you never really see how stuff turns out.

Parenting is hard.

It’s like running a small army of humans that all have very distinct ideas of what it entails to be in the army, that had no choice in the matter of joining in the first place, and have to get along regardless.

Three days before we finalized V’s adoption, we welcomed his biological five-day old brother to our home. I kinda thought we would be out of the system by now. Or at least with a plan. Not coordinating court ordered visits with the same bio mom the day of his brother’s adoption.

Starting from scratch before we even finished.

A friend at church asked if it was easier to parent a newborn not having to go through the labor part. I told her it was, in some ways, and it wasn’t.

I’m hungry all the time. I’m not sleeping. My hair is falling out. My pants don’t fit. I don’t know how to make dinner or transport everyone somewhere. Normal, new kid in the family stuff.

Only it’s with someone else’s kid.

Withdrawing from drugs that shouldn’t exist.

Too small to fit in the carseat.

One I missed out on holding for 5 days. Never felt his kicks or hiccups. One that lost everything familiar in one foreign car ride.

So I guess, my heart hurts more. And that’s different.

They, the social workers, always ask at some point, are you sure?  are you guys up for this?”

Not really. No.

And yes, yes of course.

What I told his mom months ago.


I’m not sure what I wanted adoption to feel like. Or what it really does independent of all the new stuff and the tired stuff and the back in the system stuff.

Love is Love.

Wherever they came from. For however long they are with you. And wherever they are going.

That, I do know for sure.

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On Running

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It’s been a while since I raced.

And by “race” I mean paid $40 to put on a bib and run behind a whole bunch of people way faster than I ever will be towards the music and beer and pie and iced espresso.

The last race I ran was a half that I downgraded to a 10K. Drove to by myself, raced by myself, and left by myself. Never saying a word to anyone. I slogged up the hill. I slogged down the hill. I turned around in time to start getting passed by the leads in the half. I leapfrogged run/walking with a few other desperate to finish women. I heard the music. Saw the balloons. Sprinted ((well, hobbled a little bit faster)) to the end. Patted myself on the back and drove myself home to eat and sleep.

It was horrible.

And I can’t help but think about doing it again.


The last six months in Foster Care were more or less that race.  We slogged through wishing it to be over and dreading the finish all at the same time. Struggling up the hills, struggling down the hills. Run/walking the entire way. Exhausted. Trying to finish strong but out of breath and out of steam and out of motivation to make it to the end.

  But we kept going. Kept walking knowing the music and the cheering and the balloons are so. very. close. We just can’t see them yet.

and then, before we know it, we are in our car, headed home to eat and sleep and process what the hell just happened.


We sent our girlies off last week. With bags of clothes and books and toys. Albums full of pictures. Memories of a season with our family. We sent them off to be reunited with their sibling.  Something long overdue.

I’ve been dreading the feelings of being “the other foster home.” Of playing a part in kids moving from place to place.  Nervous about how to handle comments about our constantly changing family.

  A family that did respite for us a few weeks back said the thing I was truly, honestly, dreading.  “I’m glad things aren’t so crazy anymore for you.”  They had all five kids on a Sunday afternoon because the county thought it would be good initial childcare experience. Ha!  I feel like, maybe, just maybe, we were a bad place to start.

I mean, I AM so glad things aren’t so crazy anymore, but I feel like I get to say that, you know? I’ve been processing why I’ve been dreading that comment and why it stuck out so much for me in a weekend full of encouraging, just the right thing, comments.

 It was our crazy and maybe in a sense, I liked it. And in another way, I miss it. And in a third way, it feels too oddly quiet around here and I hate it.

To bring back the running analogy, it would be like if someone at a water station came up to you after a race and said, “wow, it was hot today.”

It was hot. You are right. Thank you.

It was crazy. You are right. Thank you.

I don’t miss the driving or the meltdowns or the sibling rivalry. The early morning wakeups or the lack of spontaneity. But I do miss our girlies and I would be lying to say that I don’t. We worked really hard with them. We helped get them to a point where they could be ok together in one home. Gave our friends enough time to be in a place to say yes. We loved them in every possible way you could love someone.

It was insane, but I still miss it.

We did it. We made it to the end of a season. The end of a race.


I guess, now, we get to do the water station and comment on the heat. That’s one of the pluses about not racing. And maybe a good reminder to be nicer to the water station people. They most likely have a ridiculous race coming up too.

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On Respite

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Respite.

A word that I didn’t give much thought to until we started Fostering.

def: a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.

When I looked up the definition I was hoping for something more profound. Some root word embedded that gave a deeper meaning. But that’s it. Simply a short period of rest from something that is difficult.

______________________________

I’ve had to ask for a lot of help the past six months. I’m not sure entirely how well the depth of my thanks can be communicated.  You know who you are. The ones that watch my big kids for hours. And then do it again. And again. The ones who bring coffee unannounced. The ones that come for free to babysit so Joe and I can get dinner without any interruptions. So we can stay married. The ones who take the girls on weekends so our family can breathe.

But you also know that I keep asking.

and asking

and asking.

And for longer periods.

Like, most recently, for four whole days and nights.

And I have to be honest, I feel utterly and completely selfish every single time.

________________________

I don’t know. I don’t have any other way to describe it.

I just feel selfish.

And I’m finding myself angrier the more I do it. The more I ask. The more I rely on you. The more I realize just how much I need it. How much we need it as a family.

I had a conversation with my husband the other day, why did we say yes? Why did we decide to put this weight on our family? On our friends? On our community? It would have been so much easier to say no, we can’t do it. It’s too much. Find someone else.

It feels selfish to have said yes, they can sleep here.

He looked at me a little confused, nodding hesitantly. Like he heard me but thought I was living in crazy town and didn’t want to push me over the edge.

____________________________

 Half of you are angry that I feel this way. Half are making your way through a response as to why I shouldn’t feel selfish. Why you are here to help with whatever we need. How much you love us and support us and “blah blah blah.”

((snark))

We love you too.

Respite is, well, it’s a breath in the midst of drowning.

___________________________

A few weekends ago I was able to take three of our kids down on an overnight trip while we had respite for the girls. There was an intense weight that came off my chest as we drove. Like I could breathe, a real breath, for the first time in months.

We had an amazing weekend of laughing and eating and adventuring.

But it wasn’t long before I had to make the drive back up. Racing the clock to make it before we needed to coordinate care. And the heaviness came back. Tearful conversations. The first time in, maybe, ever, that I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to do just about anything else.

I paid for it Monday. Dysregulation in all of us. Eagerly counting down the seconds until Dad stepped off the plane. Still a few full days away.

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 We have another one coming up. A weekend of respite. Girls one place. Big kids another. Baby in my lap on an airplane across the country.

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I am working hard to be grateful and not spend quite so much time feeling selfish. To take the breath. To extend our family circle. To grasp the air. Saying Thank You.

Because, if I’m honest, maybe that’s what I’m getting mixed up in this whole thing. The difference between Selfishness and Gratitude.

So, I guess, in short, Thank you. For allowing us space to breathe but also for allowing that breath to keep happening. To allow us to continue.

Breathing over

and over

and over

and over again.

Thank you.

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On Parenting Kids that have Experienced Trauma

Foster Parenting

Trauma does weird things to kids.

And not always right after the fact. It can be years and years before anything shows up. And you may never really know what the actual trauma was.

For our little guy, he didn’t want to eat. Especially if he was upset. We had to sneak attack bottles, set timers and remind everyone to never ever ever ever warm it up.  Now, a few months after our adoption paperwork got started, I’m starting to find out why. But it’s been 15 months.  We had to sneak attack bottles, set timers and remind everyone to never ever ever ever warm it up. He still won’t drink things warm. He won’t eat if he’s tired. Or if he’s overwhelmed. Or if he got a new baseball mitt. Food is not a comfort for him. I’m not sure it ever will be.

For our girlies, I have little inklings of their trauma, but not much. Triggers that always surprise me.

One of the most valuable things that we learned before starting Foster Care was the idea of self-regulation. For the kids, yes. But even more importantly for the caregivers. We heard a lecture on staying as far away from your “red line” as you could. The place where you lose it, where you are totally and absolutely dysregulated. That’s your red line. There’s a great example of a window and how far it can open- the farther it can open the more you can handle. We want to widen that opening for our kids so they can handle more and more along the way. We want to widen it for ourselves so we can handle more.

This year I’ve had to learn how to keep myself far away from my line by asking for help, investing in myself and my marriage and by automating as much as I can. This goes for everything from groceries to housecleaners. Self-care isn’t a joke, you guys. It’s become a buzzword as of late and I’m so glad. But I do fear that we minimize it. Or feel silly for needing it. Or apologetic for a massage or new nails or a clean house. I wrote more about this in my post: We Should Probably Talk

I started to look for some great quotes on trauma but ended up feeling overwhelmed. “Stop being a victim.” “Don’t minimize your feelings, that’s just dissociation…” Some just referred to physical trauma, others to emotional. I’m not a therapist and I don’t have too much to add to this discussion.

So what can you take away from this? One: To take notice of where your redline is.

One: To take notice of where your redline is. Parent or not. Foster parent or regular parent. Male or Female. Employee or Employer. Human Person. Watching how close you are to your line will help you help yourself and others that much more effectively. Two: Be aware. I know we can’t always prevent kids from getting triggered, but we can maybe help them out if it’s happening. For our girls, it may be a nickname or nicknames of family members. Especially if that family member isn’t there and you use the word. For our baby, it may be giving him space if he’s bombarded. It’s not letting him cry too long.  For our bio kids, it may be extra kindness and space when family transitions are happening.

Two: Be aware. I know we can’t always prevent kids from getting triggered, but we can maybe help them out if it’s happening. We can offer extra grace. We can redirect and judge less and parent more effectively. For our girls, they may be triggered by a nickname or nicknames of family members. Especially if that family member isn’t there and you use the word. It’s too much for them. It may be making sure we always have enough milk or have more than enough snacks in the car. For our baby, it may be giving him space if he’s bombarded. He may be trigger by crying too long.  For our bio kids, they may need extra kindness and space when family transitions are happening. They may need space to be angry. To be rude. They may have been running on empty for way longer than any child ever should.

I’m working on my own triggers. I realized not long ago that my heart started racing when I went back to a certain doctor’s office. It did the same thing driving on a road I used to drive on all the time. Even though we aren’t on call for placements, I still get shaky when my phone rings and it’s an unknown number.

And I’m an adult.

How much harder do you think it is to deal with if you were a kid?

Highly Recommended Resources:

(from people that know what they are talking about)

Whole Brain Child

Beyond Consequences 

The Connected Child

The Boy Who Built A Wall Around Himself (picture book for kiddos)

Find more of our story this month on Instagram (@mixingplaydough). 

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“Are you the presenter?”

Foster Parenting

“So, are you the presenter?”

 That was the first question I received from an attendee last week. I smiled and said, yes, of course, but really I wanted to smack the lady.

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I had a chance to be one of a handful of presenters at a foster parent recruitment night this past month. It was set up as a series of round tables, with the foster families sharing their stories at each one. It’s an awesome chance to get to hear from current and past foster parents, ask questions, get an idea of what foster care in our county looks like and start to build community. It’s meant to be positive, sharing the highs, sharing the vision our county has and the joys of this job.

I wasn’t sure how to start or what to talk about at each table. Usually just the basics, “Hi, I’m Lauren, my husband wishes he could be here, I have 5 kids ranging from 8-1”

And then I would pause. Not sure where to go. Why did we start this again? I stumbled and stuttered through most of it, just asking if anyone had any questions for me I could answer. It was an effective solution and probably the easiest way to not get burned out over the next two hours. But I left feeling like maybe I could’ve said more. Maybe I should’ve had a great family mission statement and specific reasoning behind it. Anything other than we wanted to adopt at some point in the future and this was free.

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The same couple that asked if I was the one actually presenting also had a few other gems that night.

“How long are kids in care?”    It depends. 

“But are we looking at like 4 months or like 3 years?” It depends 

“How much do you get paid?” It depends 

“I’m just trying to get my head around this, you mentioned foster parenting was a good fit for your specific skillsets. What are they?”   Seriously?  I like kids. And you are a jerk.

The rest of the time they would ask a question and look at each other, say “oh sorry, it depends” and laugh. 

I also met amazing couples with really great questions. Excited and eager and nervous and as ready as you can be. Parents and Couples and Singles. There were tears and laughing. Sighs. A few words of encouragement “You sound like a really good Foster Mom.”  I shared the resources that are available and gave tips on how to ask for help and how to be specific about the needs and concerns of your specific family.  I shared details about the county and scheduling and what to expect when someone comes into your house. The simple things like- show them around, make dinner, watch a show, put out clothes, have icecream.

I connected with the other foster parents in our community, sharing stories and laughing. Wishing I could’ve sat at the table with them and just listened to their stories. Searching for some sort of encouragment. For the “me too.”

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A lot of days I wish we had taken time to sit down and write a foster family mission statement before we started. My heart is too stretched to do it now. Stretched with hints of comings and goings. With the constant feeling like I’m never quite doing enough, not connected enough, not bonding enough, too distracted, too overwhelmed, too… all the things.

The what if’s playing so strongly.

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I’ve had more time to think of what I wish I had said that night. I think that we started this journey by simply pulling a thread. We started looking at what adoption would look like. We went to orientation in our county. We liked what we heard. We went to training. We submitted the paperwork. We updated our house. We answered the phone. We answered again. And again. And again. Small threads that led to where we are now. Nine years of marriage, eight tender hearts that we love deeply, one home bursting with memories that we will never forget.  Small threads that we pulled and pulled and pulled.

Or pulled us.

Maybe that’s a better illustration.

I’ve never felt more just ‘along for the ride’ then I have the past few months. And I’m starting to slowly learn that that’s ok.

“Wow, God knew what was gonna happen here for sure.”

yea. that.

I’m so glad he does.

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If you ever have a chance to attend something like this, I would highly recommend it. We had foster family helpers, foster parents, county workers. Even if you just want to hear what it’s like to be a foster kid, it’s worth it just for that.

Or, you can always email me. Or come watch my kids. Or buy them a gift. Or get them icecream. That’s a great way to see that they are really just normal kids and not anything like the sappy radio commercials make it all sound.  I promise I’ll only put your questions on the blog if they are like really really really really annoying.

There was an illustration a little while ago that dissapeared from the internet (or at least I can’t find it now) but it’s a foster famly and the web of support that surrounds them. Thank you all for being a part of that web. Not everyone can actually be the foster family but I do hope that everyone can at least have a realistic idea of what foster care looks like in America in 2016. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll start the thread pulling for your family too.