Thursday, December 11, 2014

Getting Real: Finding Joy in Motherhood

Being a mommy.  It's what I always wanted.  I would say I was going to be a teacher or social worker, but I knew what I really wanted was to be a mommy.  I married a like minded man with a heart to see me at home.  When I got pregnant with Addilece I was thrilled. 

About a month before we took Our Guy into our home I was straightening up the living room.  As I was putting pillows back on the couch I turned to watch Addilece spin and dance to a song playing.  I thought, "This is where I want to be.  I could NOT think of another job I would want to do right now.  I'm so fortunate to do what I love."

Then life changed.  We said hello, fell in love, and said to goodbye to Our Guy.  We had our world rocked as we went to the craziness of four childrenWe dealt with emotional roller coasters.  We had a child diagnosed with Autism.  We had a child struggle with their identity in our family.  We dealt with a parade of caseworkers, therapists, and counselors; court dates, doctors appointments, and birth family visits.  Our marriage took a beating

Just over two years after I had that beautiful moment, I sat in our living room again and told Tony I did  not like being a mom.  It was just motions by that point.  Things I should have found funny drove me nuts.  I would have been more thrilled to have my kids sit quietly and read books to themselves all day then enjoy the rowdiness of their play.  I did everything with the goal of bed time, so I could shut of my brain before heading to bed, just to do it again the next day.  It was hard to admit, especially to myself.

Thankfully, my story didn't end there. A few months later Baby Girl was standing on our landing while music was playing, as she was dancing she kept poking her head around the corner to see if I was watching.  I began laughing and thought to myself, "oh I love these kids and I love being with them."  It was such a breathtaking moment, to have that joy back.

Oh dear mommas.  Life with kids can be so tough and so draining sometimes. Have you lost your joy?  I wish I could give you a five step process to find your joy again, but I can't.  I did nothing of my own accord expect pray and pray some more.  God did all the work.  He worked and healed in many ways and taught me many lessons.  I do want you to know this.  I get it.  I do.  I'm not here to judge, because I know you feel that all around you.  But if you want a hug, a listening ear, or a praying friend I would be happy to do that for you!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Supporting Foster/Adoptive Families: Holiday Edition

Trees are being put up, presents wrapped, Christmas music is blarring everywhere.  It's a time to be joyous.  However, in many foster and adoptive Homes things are not feeling very joyful right now.  There are more meltdowns and fits, behavior at school it worse, parents and kids are both tired. 

This is a hard time for kids from hard places.  They miss their birth families and wish they could be with them.  They may not understand the traditions in their new home or they miss old traditions.  They may have certain expectations that get in the way of enjoying themselves.  They may be overwhelmed by the concerts, the people, and the hustle and bustle.

If you are looking to support a foster or adoptive family this is a great time of year to do it.  Here are a few practical ways that you could consider in helping support a foster/adoptive family this Christmas. 

Wrap Gifts:  An increase in children often means an increase in gifts.  Wrapping all of that can be an overwhelming task for many parents.  Stop by their house, pick up a load of toys, and bring them back wrapped a few hours later.

Shopping/Babysitting: Some families need time to get out of the house and finish Christmas shopping without their kids.  Even an hour at the mall play place could be a huge blessing.  Others know exactly what they need and would rather not add the tension by having a babysitter come in.  However, someone getting it for them while they are already at the store is a huge blessing.

A Meal: On top of many appointments a family has each week they are now dealing with they also have shopping to do, family get togethers, Christmas programs and more.  A meal would be a welcome relief in their day.

Gift Cards: Extra gas, more nights out, more presents to buy.  A gift card to take the finicial burden off of all of that would be a blessing to many families.

Taking Over the School: Is one (or more) of the kiddos in charge of something like home baked goods or a game for a school party.  Maybe you could take over that item and relieve the stress for the parents.

Sometimes Christmas turns into survival mode for many of these families, rather then a time to celebrate.  We have been very blessed to have others support us in many of the ways above and know first hand the stress it can relieve. If you are a foster or adoptive family what are ways people have supported you this year?  If you are a support family, how have you supported a foster/adoptive family in the past?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Taking Back the Holidays: Turn Your Christmas Upside Down

Americans spend over $450 BILLION each year on Christmas.  That averages out to about $700 per adult. And what do we have to show for it at the end of the holiday season?  Often it's stress, grumpiness, debt, and stuff.  However, we can Take Back the Holidays by choosing to turn our Christmas upside down this year. 

Tony and I look for ways each year that we can spend our money wiser.  Some of our favorite organizations are one that provide jobs and opportunities to those in need, helping them to rise about devastating circumstances, in exchange for a good or service.  Here are a few of those organizations:

Krotchet Kids:

Our kids are each getting a hat from Krotchet Kids for Christmas this year.  The hats are gorgeous and incredibly soft.  Each hat is signed by the woman who crocheted it.  We can't wait to introduce our kids to those ladies.

We believe in the capabilities of people. Our goal is to holistically equip people living in poverty with the skills, education, and resources to change their circumstances forever. Work provides worth. Education breeds innovation. Mentorship nourishes relationships. Through this multi-faceted and measured approach we work with each beneficiary to create a path toward independence.

Ornaments 4 Orphans:

This is our second year purchasing O4O.  Again, I'm blown away by how adorable these ornaments are.  We love to give these to teachers, counselors, and therapists at the Christmas season. 

Ornaments4Orphans’ mission is to empower indigenous artisans through fair trade practices, invest in the holistic care of orphaned children through our partners, and provide our customers with an opportunity to purchase beautiful, handmade items that bless others. When you purchase products from Ornaments4Orphans, you can be certain that you have made a difference in the lives of the men, women, and children where Ornaments4Orphans is present.

31 Bits:

Beautiful fashion and jewelry to support women in Uganda.  31 Bits just began a line of girls' bracelets also, which are incredibly adorable.

Every purchase you make can either have a positive or negative impact on the world. 31 Bits is part of a movement revolutionizing the way people do business. We value both the creator and the consumer. The artisans in our program are receiving a sustainable income and holistic education, empowering them to rise above poverty. Our accessories are marked by fresh colors and crisp design. Our customers exemplify sophistication and compassion.

The heartbeat of 31 Bits is made of love, creativity, community, endless laughter, compassion, story telling, fashion, and frequent dance parties. Click around and learn more about how we started, why we do what we do, and the people behind our company.

Noonday Collection:

Again, beautiful jewelry and fashion to empower women across the globe.  Noonday also offers an Amassador Program, much like Pampered Chef and Mary Kay, to bring awareness to their product.

Noonday Collection's mission is to create economic opportunity for the vulnerable. We partner with artisans in the developing world, empowering them to grow sustainable businesses. By creating a marketplace for their goods, we create dignified jobs at living wages. This allows our artisans to earn more in order to support their families. We also offer no interest loans and make advance payments on orders. This way we are able to shoulder the costs of materials and build a lasting relationship based on trust. We offer scholarship programs and emergency assistance. Noonday Collection also donates a portion of sales from adoption trunk shows to place orphans in forever families. Noonday Collection is not a charity and we do not believe that providing a hand out is a sustainable long-term solution to poverty. We aim to be a sustainable business that gives women across the United States a way to make a lasting difference in the fight against poverty and injustice. This is what makes this movement so special.

How are you going to let your money speak this Christmas?  You can purchase beautiful, handcrafted gifts that empower an artisan half a world away.

Do you have an organization that you like to support at Christmas to help turn your Christmas upside down?  Post a link in the comments.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent Season: Our Nativity Tree

Three.  Three very long months of no blogging.  It has been so nice to not have the "pressure" of doing the blog.  However, there are so many important things on my heart that I want to share, so I am jumping in full force (I hope).

December 1st.  The count down the Christmas has begun.  How do you prepare you hearts and homes to get ready for the holiday.  Do you do a fun Advent Calender with a piece of candy for every day?  Do you have a paper chain that you take off a piece each day?

For us this is a time we like to turn our families hearts to focusing on Christ's birth.  One of the ways we do this is through our Nativity Tree.  We set a small tree up in our dining room and have an ornament for each day till Christmas.  Each night at dinner a different child gets to open the gift and hang the ornament inside.  There is a scripture reading that goes with it.

 (Side Note: We actually do LESS then 25 days.  We do this because, 1. it's hard to stretch the Nativity story any further and 2. it's hard to find that many ornaments. Also, we bought a hodge podge of ornaments, you can't go find a "kit" for this.)

Here is our break down of our verses and ornaments:  

  • Day 1: Star Tree Topper
    • We discuss the point of the star a general overview of the Christmas Story
  • Day 2: Mary
    • Matthew 1:18
  • Day 3: Joseph
    • Matthew 1:19
  • Day 4: Angel (to Mary)
    • Luke 1:26-37
  • Day 5: Angel (to Joseph)
    • Matthew 1:20-25
  • Day 6: A small bag (Visiting Elizabeth)
    • Luke 2:39-45
  • Day 7: A number (the Census)
    • Luke 2:2-5
  • Day 8: A donkey
    • Luke 2:6
  • Day 9: A cloth
    • Luke 2:7
  • Day 10: A sheep (Shepherds)
    • Luke 2:8
  • Day 11: Angel (to Shepherds)
    • Luke 2:9-14
  • Day 12: Shepherds
    • Luke 2:15-18 
  • Day 13: A church (taking Jesus to the Temple)
    • Luke 2:21-38
  • Day 14: Star
    • Matthew 2:1-2
  • Day 15: Magi
    • Matthew 2:1-2
  • Day 16: A crown (King Herod)
    • Matthew 2:3-5, 7-8
  • Day 17: Magi
    • Matthew 2:9-10
  • Day 18: Magi
    • Matthew 2:11-12
  • Day 19: Gift 1 (Gold)
    • Show pictures of gold, discuss the value of gold
  • Day 20: Gift 2 (Incense)
    • Talk about the value of incense and what it is used for
  • Day 21: Gift 3 (Myrrh)
    • Talk about the value of myrrh and what it is used for
  • Day 22: The Cross
    • John 3:16
  • Day 23: Manger Scene
What does your family do to prepare for Christmas?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Concerning Foster Care: 5 Tips for Relative Attachment


Attachment is not something I've talked about much on this blog.  But if you are a foster or adoptive parent I'm sure you will not be surprised to hear that attachment issues are something we struggle with every single day.  Thankfully things have gotten much better-especially in the last six months. For those who do not understand what attachment is then watch this video by Karyn Purvis.  Also, check out some other amazing resources from Empowered to Connect.

Please Note: We are BLESSED to have the family members we have.  They have been accepting, caring, and supportive.  We know many, many families that enter their foster care journey with family members that greatly oppose them, others have opposition grown as things progress.  We are so fortunate that this has NOT been the case for us.

Attachment is a two way street.  In foster care or adopting it is obvious that your child struggles with their relationship with you.  However, for me, it was a harsh and humbling reality to realize that I struggled with a relationship with my child.  I remember the day it dawned on me that if I struggled with this then of course our family members would struggle with this.  I have a feeling that with how great our family members are (see above note), if I saw them struggling to attach to our children then there are a lot of grandparents and aunts and uncles who are in the same boat.

If you are a relative of a foster or adopted child and you are struggling with your attachment to them, please note that you are not alone.  The parent raising that child is having an extremely hard time also.  That child themselves is struggling to relate to you.  There are other grandparents and aunts and uncles who find themselves in the same situation.  Reach out.  Research.  And be willing to work at it.  It will be a blessing to these kids parents to see you try.  Here are five things you can do to strengthen your relationship with that child.

1. Find a hobby or interest of the child's and invest in it.
Does this kiddo like trains?  Take him to your local train station.  Does this child enjoy books?  Make sure you have a few when the visit your home.  Do they love to build with legos?  Sit down and build a set with them.  15 minutes of undivided attention can do wonders in helping you relate to this child.

2. Be interested in the child's life.
Know what grade they are in, find out their favorite and hardest subject.  Attend their t-ball games or call them after one to see how they did.  Understand the diagnosis they've been given and what that may look like in that child (but also know that they are more then a diagnosis).  If they are sick send them a get well card.

3. Understand why the child's parents are disciplining the way they are.
If you are a grandparent (or any relative) please know that your child is not going to discipline this child the way you disciplined them.  You may not like the way the discipline, you may not agree with it.  Before you start to tell them what they should do, find out why they are doing what they are doing.  The lack of eye contact probably isn't a respect issue, but a trust and fear issue.  That tantrum probably doesn't mean the child is a brat, but most likely stems from sadness (masking as anger) or fear.  And spanking a child probably isn't going to correct the problem.  Instead it will probably make the fear and distrust grow deeper.

4. Pray for that child. 
Ask the child's parent for specific prayer request for both the child AND for their birth family.  I find that when I pray for a changed heart in my child, my heart is most affected.  If you want to grow closer to a child become their personal prayer warrior.

5. Fake it till you make it.
Hearing this from an adoptive parent has given me permission to not always be the perfect mom.  Sometimes I don't want to love my child.  Sometimes it just seemed to hard.  However, if I can put on a smile and hug them even when I didn't want to I slowly feel the walls in my heart break down.  You may struggle to see them like the other children, born into your family.  Do NOT let them know that.  Fake the affection.  Fake the interest in their activities.  Choose to treat them equally, even when you don't feel like it.  When you couple that with prayer your love and attachment for that child will grow as the walls break down.