Friday, November 29, 2013

Give Away Christmas

Well, Thanksgiving weekend is well underway.  Today many people will head into stores looking for all those good deals.  We will also do some of this.  However, as you search out all those deals then I pray you take a moment to focus on how you will spend your money this Christmas.

Each year Americans spend BILLIONS on Christmas.  Take some time to watch this video by Advent Conspiracy and then take some time to check out the three amazing companies below.

Ornaments for Orphans:
"Ornaments4Orphans exists to bless these precious children by connecting their needs with Christmas tradition.  Ornaments4Orphans sells beautiful Christmas items hand-crafted in impoverished communities, then uses the proceeds to enrich the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children. Ornaments4Orphans also strives to combat the global orphan crisis through orphan prevention. The local artisans employed by Ornaments4Orphans experience a reliable income which enables them to provide for their families.  They put food on their tables, enroll their children in school and purchase the medications which will hopefully lengthen their lives."
We bought our kiddos ornaments, teachers gifts, and parents' ornaments (sorry for the spoiler alert) from here.  They are gorgeous.  We will probably by our kids' ornaments from here next year also.

147 Million Orphans:
147 Million Orphans Foundation
"The 147 Million Orphans Foundation was created to impact the lives of children through the provision of food, water, and medicine. We invest directly in projects that help provide these basic needs to those who desperately need it, and most of our projects occur in Haiti, Honduras, and Uganda."
147 sells beautiful clothing, jewelry, bags, and more.  Started by Gwen and Suzanna, who were united for their love for the fatherless around the world.  

Claro Candles:

"Every candle purchased through Claro has a different giving outcome that fights social injustice in our world.  Whether your purchase plants a tree, provides a meal, sends a child to school, or fights for the rights of abused women, your purchase has a lasting impact in the life of someone in need.  Burn a candle.  Bring light."
 Each month Claro focuses on a different ministry by which to distribute the money they have made through the sale of candles.

What was your most memorable Christmas gift?  What was it so meaningful?
What is your favorite "reaching out" company to invest your money in?  Share the information in the comments section.  If you  have a blog post that shares great Christmas ideas please link it below.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Super Mom and Being Ok NOT Being Her

Our foster kids qualify for free/reduced lunches.  At first I really struggled with this, not because I had a problem accepting the help (when you go from feeding one little mouth to four over night it can take its toll on your budget) but because it meant I wasn't the one making Big Brother's lunches.

"Why do you have to make them?" Tony asked me one day.

"I don't know.  It's what my mom did.  I always liked that my mom made my lunches.  I felt bad for the kids who had to eat at school.  It seemed like there parents were too busy to make them lunch."

"But that's not how Big Brother feels.  He thinks its cool to eat at school and making him lunch is taking up a lot of time that could be used for other things."

That was the moment it hit me.  I couldn't and shouldn't be super mom.  There are so many things that I've had to humbly step back from and realize that I can't be those things for my kids and my family, whether that's for a short amount of time or forever.  It's not healthy or good for me to try and be a super mom.  Instead of doing a few things very well, I will be stretched so thin I will do nothing well.  So here is the "super" mom things I have had to let go of.

*Couponing: I used to coupon a LOT, and it saved us a LOT.  I have no time to coupon anymore.  I do still shop deals and sales.  I do still hold price points on things that I won't buy until they reach that point.  However, my Aldi shopping list grows bigger all the time.

*Emotional Problem Solver: I had a vision of being the mom who always had the words to say.  The one that had the lap to sit on.  I've come to realize I CAN'T be that for my kids.  We've had to seek a lot of outside help and support to deal with the many emotions our kids are feeling and in turn that help is helping me get better at being the one to help my kids.

*Put Together Kids:  Most days my kids show up to school with breakfast still on their face and snot running down there noises.  And typically I don't have the wipe to clean it up with.  I don't have the time to spot check each of my kids before they run out the door.  It just doesn't happen.

*The Clean Van Award: One time my Dad went to vacuum out my van and I told him I had vacuumed it since I last saw him.  He said he could tell.  Yes, it's that bad.  My van is pretty much a disgrace.  We live in our van.  We have so many appointments and meetings that we often eat in our van.  Sometimes it's a meal and sometimes just a snack, but either way it gets dirty.  There their are the toys the kids bring in the vehicle, the numerous paper work we pick up, and a ton of other random things.  I usually cringe when I show someone the inside of my van.

*Discipline Extraordinaire:  Every counselor and therapist we have ever had has commented on how "great" I do with the kids.  I have to laugh to myself as I think, "Yeah, because your here, it's easier to hold it together when someone else is here."  More often then not I hear a harsh, snippy, and impatient tone from my mouth.  I have a vision of the get down on one knee, in a calm voice, mom I want to be, but I am far from it.  The other day, after I had snapped at the kids, Baby Girl looked at me and said, "Mommy, I think you need to take a deep breath."  Gotta love how God uses what you are trying to drill into their heads to come full circle into conviction.

*Top Preformers: Sometimes Awana isn't studied till the day before, sometimes I forget to give Big Brother his spelling tests, sometimes I do what Little Man's therapist asked me to do that week 5 minutes before she arrives, and sometimes we are late for an appointment because I had to fill out the paperwork (that I've had for three weeks) in the car before we went in.  And that should probably be a be a little (or a lot) more then sometimes.  Three counseling appointments, two therapy appointments, school, work, Awana, and just general life gets in the way of being on top of things like we should be.

There you go.  My confession.  I fail miserably as a mom.  But that's ok.  And I need to be ok with that.  I can't be perfect (thank you God for your Grace that picks up my mess and loves me still).  I just pray I can show my kids who they should turn their messes over to, who can be the super hero in their lives.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

10 Fingers, 10 Toes

"Do you want a girl or a boy?"

"All we care is that the baby is healthy and has 10 fingers and 10 toes?"

It's a phrase many parents use when they are expecting a child.  We used it when we were expecting Sweet Pea.  It's the dream every parent wants, to raise a "normal" child.

I'm not sure what every foster and adoptive parent believes about the children they are bringing into their homes.  I think most know that their will be delays and issues.  Some are welcoming children who they know are already diagnosed with special needs.

However, I think most, when they look the full reality of their child's needs in the face, have a grieving process.  There is a process of saying good bye to childhood and adult hood for their kids.  A time of looking at the future and wondering; what is it going to be like.

I have not held Little Man since the day he was born.  But I do, as his mother, have so many hopes and dreams for him.   I want him to live a full and productive life.  I want him to be successful as adult.  But I also know there are so many things I am saying good bye to. 

Each day brings something of joy and success but it also brings a harsh reality of the future we may face.  I love my Little Man, and I will fight hard to help him live life at his very best.  And while he is not "healthy", he is an amazing creation of God.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bragging on My Man

I just have to take a few minutes to brag on my incredible husband.

The other day a discussion (which we have often) about things we needed to buy for the family (ie clothing, school needs, etc) led to me mentioning a distaste for my wardrobe. 

"I feel like I'm 40 and I'm NOT, I'm 25!" 

(Did you guys know I'm 25???.....almost 26.)

My hubs encouraged me to use the household money to buy myself a few things every moth.  I thought That was sweet but not practical.  We use every penny of the household money every month and I usually have a list going of what we need for the next month.  Also, going shopping with our four kids and our crazy's just not going to happen.

A few days later my husband handed me some cash and explained how he had rearranged our budget a bit.  All for me, to feel a bit closer to my age.

Yesterday we drove to the mall and I spent over two hours, by myself, shopping.  While he watched the kids.

I could NOT ask for a better guy.

Thanks Babe for spoiling me!  I love you!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thankful Leaves

I always look forward to November.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming which means time with family, fun with my kids, and most of all remember Jesus Christ's birth.  One of our favorite things to do in November are Thankful leaves.  Each night we take a leaf and write one thing that we are thankful for.  Then we hang them up in our dining room.  It is a great way to put into perspective all of the things we have.  The kids LOVE watching our leaf trail grow around our room.  Six family member giving thanks 28 times equals a lot of things to be thankful for. 

Here is what you will need:
*Clip Art from the internet in different leaf shapes, put into a word document.
*Colored construction paper (we use one color for each family member).
*Painters Tape

1. Print off your word document as many times as you need.
2. Cut out leaves
3. Each night write something you are thankful for
4. Take it onto the wall in a fun pattern. 
5. Take some time to reflect on the incredible blessings God has placed in your life.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: Held: Learning to Live in God's Grip

Recently, I was given the chance to review Held: Learning to Live in God's GripHeld is a Bible Study for Special-Needs Parents by Lee and Sandra Peoples.  Lee and Sandra have three boys, one of whom his Autism.  (For those of your interested-The Peoples are also in the process of adoption with their third son.) Lee is a Pastor and their church has sought be create a wonderful Special Needs ministry.

When I heard of the opportunity to review this devotional I was very excited as Little Man's diagnosis is still very fresh.  It came at a perfect time as we walked away from a difficult IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting.  Things had gone about opposite of how we thought they would go and it was (still is) a real struggle.  The People's talked honestly about many of their own struggles with Doctors and family and church.  It hit close to home in so many ways.

Lee and Sandra did three things that I love in this book. 1. They focused the whole study on God; how we relate to God as we go through the struggles of raising a child with special needs, the truth of who God is in our lives, and how God expects us to respond in difficult situations.  2. The present the gospel message very clearly, declaring the truth of who Christ is. 3. Everything they say is deeply rooted in God's word.

I do wish that they had placed the scripture references at the top of each section of reading for quick reference and reading.  Some scripture is quoted within the text and others are just mentioned.  I would have been nice to have it listed at the top though.

This book was a quick and easy devotional.  Great for the family who is hopping from appointment to appointment and meeting to meeting.  It would also be a wonderful study to do as a group.  I would personally love to do this with other special need parents and build that community, bond, and support.

Overall, I really enjoyed Held: Learning to Live in God's Grip.  It is definitely a gift I would give to a parent going through the process of diagnosis or a worn out parent tired of therapy and meetings.

Check out Sandra's Blog or (in)able Special Needs Community (part of the (in)courage network) where Sandra contributes. I truly enjoy reading what she writes and I know it will bless you also.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Journey Through the Court System Part 2

Last Friday I took you up to a change in a child's goal.  You can read that post here. 

Return Home-5 Months
If a child has this goal then the courts have oked them to return home anytime in the next five months.  Children begin increasing visits, eventually doing overnight visits.

Substitute Care Pending Termination
In order to terminate a parents rights theymust go through a trail.  The courts will first have a "Pre Trial".  At this the parents are "charged" with termination of rights and ordered to do services.  It's typically a simple, 5 minute session.

A Termination Hearing is LONG.  It is typically all day, possibly longer.  It rests on the State to provide proof that the parents' rights.  A Termination Hearing is broken into two parts: Fitness and Best Interest.  In Fitness the Judge is trying to decide if the parents are "fit" or "unfit".  Like a trial you would see on tv both sides will call witnesses and question them.  Next is "Best Interest".  Basicly they are trying to decide what the best interest of the child is.  Just because a Judge finds a parent unfit does not mean that they find the best interest of the child is adoption.  If the parents are found unfit and the best interest is adoption then the Judge will found grounds for termination. 

The parents do have 30 days to appeal this ruling.  This does not add another court date.  The Appellate court will go through the court transcripts and make sure nothing was done wrong that could affect the ruling.  The Appellate Courts are expedited for these cases.  In our area expedited means 6 to 8 months.

Most estimations for adoption in our county is about a year.  There is a TON of paperwork, for the caseworker mainly.  When all the paperwork is done you then have to wait on the courts to set the adoption date.  If a child is NOT in a home that is adopting them then that adds a bit of a kink.  A child HAS to be in a home for six months before they can be adopted.

So there you have it, the Illinois court system at it's finest.  We are so fortunate in this county.  A Judge holds ALL the power in the decision making.  We happen to have an incredible judge in this county.  We also have a great States Attorney and GAL (Guardian Ad Litem-the kids attorney).  And whats most amazing for me to watch is the parents attorney's.  They have some tough clients, but they fight incredibly HARD for them.  We are beyond blessed to live in this county.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Day of Diagnosis

We waited almost a year to get the diagnosis.  A year of evaluations, TONS of paper work, and phone calls.  Finally, the day arrived and we packed up our kiddo and headed to the Pediatric Specialists office.  It was our 5 year anniversary and my facebook status said this:
"This night five years ago was a night I got very little sleep as I excitedly waited to marry the most incredible man the next day. Never would I have imagined that five years later would be another night of little sleep as we wait to sit in a doctor's office with one of our kiddos. Excited and nervous to finally get the answers that we set out looking for 11 months ago."
 A couple of hours after walking into the doctors office we walked out this the diagnosis......Autism.

We weren't upset or shocked, just completely relieved.  And we stayed on cloud 9 that night and the rest of the weekend.

Then Monday came.  Our anniversary weekend was over, our diagnosis wasn't as fresh, and we were back to the daily grind.  We were left wondering one thing.....what now?

We had no clue where to go or what to do from here.  We needed to make decisions and didn't know how to make them.  There was one other thing pressing in on me....

"How am I going to raise this child?"

I wish I could say I knew the answer to that question.....I don't.  However, I'm doing what I do best.  Researching, reading books, reading blogs, finding support.  And by the Grace of God we are raising our special needs child one-day-at-a-time.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Journey through the Court System Part 1

The court system for foster care is complex and confusing to say the least.  I think most people have NO idea what it is like until they live it.  I'm going to try and break it down for you.  I will do a pre adoption/return home goal change and a post adoption/return home goal change post.  This is for Illinois ONLY!  I'm not sure how other states do it, but I would assume some of it is pretty similar.  Also, I know I am going to get some of this wrong, feel free to correct me and I will update the post.  At this point I'm not going to share where we are in system.

  • The kids are removed from the home: Children can be removed from their home for emtional, physical, medical, or sexual abuse.  Children can also be removed for neglect.  

  • Shelter Hearing: A shelter hearing happens within 48 hours of a child being removed from their home.  At this time the evidence for why they where removed is presented.  If a child was unfairly removed then the child is immediately returned home (not very often).  Typically it is found that there is convincing evidence for the removal.  The child is then taking into temporary DCFS care (it doesn't matter if the child is placed with a private agency or DCFS....DCFS is the one who takes guardianship).
  • Adjudicatory Hearing: At this hearing the biological parents are charged with abuse and/or neglect of the minor.  They will either plead guilty or not guilty.  If its pretty clear they did it then their lawyers will recommend they plead guilty.  If they plead not guilty and are found not guilty the child is returned home.  Typically they are found guilty and charged with abuse and/or neglect of the minor.  They have forty days to appeal this or they can wave the appeal.
  • Dispostitional Order: A dipostional order means that full guardianship of the child is taken by DCFS.  We are actually NOT the children's guardians and thus can NOT make those decisions.  Neither is our caseworker.  All of those things go above his/her head.  We ARE the kids educational advocates meaning we can sign off on field trips and IEP's.  We can NOT sign off on athletic events of any sort (if our kids want to play soccer, it has to be approved).  We are not their medical guardians either.  While we can take the kids to basic appointments.  We can not sign off on any medication or procedures, that is DCFS's job. 
  • Status Hearings: Status hearings take place every 3, 6, or 9 months.  MOST take place every 6 months.  I don't think they often take place 9 months out.  If it is happening in shorter spurts (3 months) that that means that you are either getting closer to termination or to return home.  Visits are another way to tell this.  A parent is given the right (typically) to seeing their child at visits for two hours a week.  If the visits are increasing in length and frequency the child is getting ready to return home.  If they are decreasing in frequency the parents are getting closer to loosing rights.  At each status hearing the parents plan is reviewed and goals gone over (the family is given a plan for what needs to be done to return the children home and the parents are given goals to accomplish).  The parents are either found fit or unfit at each of these.  The goal is then set at Return Home-5 Months, Return Home-12 Months, or Substitute Care-Pending Termination. 
  • Goal Change: At some point (I believe Dispositional, but it my be Adjudicatory) the child is given a goal (see the three listed above).  If it's Return Home-5 Months the children can be returned home any time in the next five months.  The parents at this point will have been found fit because they have met all their goals.  Return Home-12 Months means that the child will continue to go through Status Hearings.  The parents have not completed services but the courts are still trying to return that child home.  Substitute Care-Pending Termination means that there will be a Termination Hearing.  The parents are not completing services and the court feels the best interest of the child is to end those parents' rights.
Are you confused yet?  Yeah, me too, and I have lived it.  Next Friday I will post what happens ofter a goal changes to Return Home-5 Months OR Substitute Care-Pending Termination.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Catching Up

I haven't blogged in over a month.  WHY?  Partially, very very busy.  Partially, what's been on my heart and mind are not what I feel comfortable blogging about quit yet.  So here are 10 random things just to give you a quick update on life:

1. I am loving homeschooling Sweet Pea.  LOVING IT!  However, at least 5 times a week we have a converstation like this:

Her: "Mom, I'm not gluing the beans onto the "V".  I'm just putting them where ever I want.
Me: "Ok, but that wasn't really the POINT.  The point was the glue them on the "V".
Her: "Yeah, but I just want to do it this way."

2. Speaking of "Sweet Pea", we have chosen to given all four kids a "code" name on the blog.  We will slowly be switching "A" to "Sweet Pea" in all blog posts....for her safety.   It's something we talked about when she was born, but thought it was no big deal.  Of course I was getting 5 people (thanks to um...our PARENTS I'm sure) to read the blog, and now I'm getting in the 60's and I have no clue who most of them are (not that I don't know them....I just don't know who reads it).  So thank you to each of you!

3. I'm staying on top on Awana paperwork this year....which is pretty much a miracle.

4. Big Brother is doing great at school.  He is having a superb year.  So proud of him!

5. Tony will begin class number 7 of 12 this weekend.  OVER HALF WAY!

6. It has gotten COLD here.  Snow?  In October?  What is that?  The kids were pretty excited.

7. Little Man is quit the snuggly bug.  I love it.

8.  The converstations from the girls while playing make believe is, "I came up and told you....."  "Yeah and pretend that I did...."  It's adorable and makes me smile every-single-time.

9.  Daddy broke it to the girls the other day that he wants o take them to the Ballet again this year.  They thought they were going THAT DAY.  We had a bit of a let down on our hands.

10.  A few months back we had to replace our washing machine because ours died.  This past Sunday we got it's match for a great price (thank you God!).  I've never been so excited to do laundry.  Our old machine sounded like a train and took forever.  We dried everything on high for as long as it took and it still wasn't truly dry.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Homeschool/Public School-A Mom's Heart Part 2

If you have read the first post for this you need to do so here.

Sweet Pea loved it!  Life got even better for me when Baby Girl was given a spot (for various reasons) by the PreK teacher.  I had my afternoons all to myself.  Awesome right?  Not so much.  Addielce's excitement lasted about two weeks.  Then she started complaining of being sick, hating school, wanting to stay home.  Lots and lots of tears (by both of us).  Her teacher and Tony and I tried what we could to pull her out of it, but it never really got better.  She hated it.  I was a devastated momma who felt like a failure again.

But God did one thing in those moments....he answered the question we had asked:  Please make it clear one way or another if she should be in this program next year.

So where are we this school year:

*Public School:  Big Brother, Little Man, and Baby Girl all attend public school (BB for a whole day, the other two for a half).  They have wonderful teachers, an amazing staff, a school disctrict that cares for them deeply.  They also get the high structure they need and are able to work on socialization skills (something they all struggle with in varing ways) in a way they can't at home.

Again, this is required, but even if it wasn't.  This would still be our choice.

*Homeschool:  Sweet Pea is home with me.  I still hear complaints (can't I just build a block tower) and sometimes wishes of going to the other kids school (I really want to play on the playground again).  She still runs to hug her old teachers (isn't it amazing she has that relationship with them) and she misses her friends.  However, homeschool is going fantastic.  Our relationship is deepening.  She is bubbling with joy.  And I am enjoying teaching her.  I can't describe the smile it brings to my face, every day.  I keep repeating to Tony how much fun we are having, he's gotten to the "uh-huh" stage of listening to that statement.

And where will we be in the future:

Well, the three in public (if we adopt them) will probably stay there, as long as we are in this district.  I couldn't ask for a better environment for them.  If we were to a move to a new district I would be ok pulling them home if I needed to.  However there are some that I would pull home before others.

Sweet Pea will be a year by year decision.  Right now I would like to keep her home next year, but we will need to do a lot of praying first.  The kindergarten teachers are just top knotch, so that makes the decision so much harder.  But she is doing so well in the home environment, that I can't imagine pulling her out of it at this point. 

My hearts in both places.  My kids are in the best places they could be right now, for themselves.  They are all thriving in their current environments but probably wouldn't be in another environment.  I'm thankful that we can do what is best for all of them.

What is your schooling choice?  Why?  Is there anything that has changed your mind throughout the years?

I did not mention private school because 1. we couldn't afford that at this time and 2. we really don't have any experience with it.  We have a great private school close, but right now that isn't an option for us.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Homeschool/Public Shool-A Mom's Heart

Please note that this post is NOT meant to argue one side or the other.  It's simple to talk about our journey to our current school situation and our thoughts for the future.

We did fine in the public schools, so our kids will do just fine.  '

That was our thinking when we got married.  In fact at one point Tony was completely against homeschooling all together.  Our parents had their reasons for sending both us and our sibs to public school.  They were great reasons, and we completely agreed with them.

Then I was pregnant or had just had Sweet Pea (I think pregnant) and I spent an evening at a godly couples house working on a project for Orphan Sunday.  She talked about her choices for school for her three girls, how her thoughts had been the same as ours.  She shared how her oldest went to Kindergarten and suddenly their world changed, they didn't like what their child was learning at school.  Their children experienced a number of different schooling options, and now they are amazing young ladies on fire for the Lord.  I wanted my kids to be like them!  The  more I read for homeschooling families, the more I liked many of the common themes (a togetherness as family, a control of teaching, more time home and less time being "busy" at school)

Fast forward to the summer before Sweet Pea would traditionally enter a Preschool (and by traditionally I mean by today's standards, the rates at which our kids go to Preschool are incredibly high compared to what they were when I was a kiddo).  We had ordered a homeschool material and were thrilled.  Soon we got a call to take in three kiddos, two would be home while I was trying to teach Sweet Pea.  This didn't phase us and we pushed forward with our plan to homeschool.

The school year rolled around and I was more then ready.  The five (turned six) year old we had taken into our home....well, he needed more structure then our everyday environment could give him.  Suddenly this homeschooling convert was begging for the school system to take her child.  PLEASE!  I felt like a complete failure.  

Side Note: We are required to send our foster kids to the public school, we have no choice.  We are also STRONGLY encouraged to send preschoolers to some sort of schooling or structured daycare.  However, even if I could have homeschooled I wouldn't have...I NEEDED him to go. 

In October Little Man entered the ECSE (Early Childhood Special Ed) program with an IEP.  In March we got asked a question I never expected: "Sweet Pea is next on our list to start PreK, talk and pray about it, let us know."  Hard question.  See in the months that had passed homeschooling was not what I expected.  Having a three year old that is all artsy, a curriculum that was so NOT, and a high needs little girl who was emotionally not handling things had pretty much become a night mare.  I knew that the PreK program was creative based ant the teachers....well, let's just say we couldn't of found better ones if we have searched for them ourselves.  They were incredible!

So we said yes.  Good bye homeschooling.....find out the rest of the story next week.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Broken Families

This is how the conversation usually goes....

"So do you know if you are going to get those kids yet?"

"  We are still a ways off of knowing whether they will be adoptable or not."

"Oh, so there parents haven't given them up yet.?"

And que the fake smile while I die inside.  This conversation is so-very-common, especially among other Christians.  Often people assume that the parents are purely evil and we, as the foster parents are the great rescuers that have come into save these kids from the horrors of the world.

It's just. not. true!

Have bio parents made mistakes?  Absolutely.  Are there times, a lot of times, they need to loose the right to their children?  Of course.  But please listen to those questions.  A mistake.  Loose rights.  We throw it around as if it's nothing.  We treat bio's with a distance and disdain for where their children are at.

Can it be horrible? Awful? Sad?  Yes.  Are they greatly affecting their children in unrepairable ways? Definitely.

I have learned something........If a child can go home, if it is safe and they can be cared for, then emotionally that is so much better for them. (Even if it breaks my heart into a million and one pieces.)

The other day Baby Girl kept repeating, "Mommy, my heart is so SAD.  It is taking a long time to get home." 

We were walking home from the park and it was taking a long time, but I didn't understand why that made her sad.  Suddenly it dawned on me, she wasn't talking about my "home", her current "home".  She was talking about going home to her parents.

God instituted families.  God desires families.  God is NOT happy when they are ripped to shreds.  Sometimes permanent separation is necessary, but that doesn't mean that the brokenness is part of how God wanted it.  Sin is the reason for the brokenness, not God.

Yes, God ordained adoption.  But that adoption is part of the brokenness of the sinful world we live in.  It was how he offered us a way out the muck and mire that we try to call our lives.  It was how he redeems us and offers the ability the be part of his family.  It is how he redeems these children's hurt and broken hearts and makes them new.

Just a note to Christians: Before you judge the bio parents and judge them.  PLEASE take a moment to remember what God did in your life.  Remember how broken and lost you were.  With out the Grace of God we are on the other side of the judgement ourselves!   

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


"Addilece.  What happened to your bike?"

The bike was less then a week old.  Addilece had gotten it for her birthday.  Now there was a whole in the seat.

"I don't know mommy."  She says as she climbed back on the seat.

"WHO put the hole in her bike?"  I begin to look around at my kiddos.  Suddenly my eyes fall on Baby Girl.  "Maybe I did it."  She states ever so casually.

After a rather long talk to her and a dishing out of discipline I tell her she must apologize to her sister.

"I forgive you."  Slips out of Sweet Pea.  She runs off to play.


It comes so easily to my four year old.  Forgiveness is just part of her everyday language.  But for me, I was still angry, frustrated, sad.  The bike hadn't been damaged by 3 year old carelessness.  The bike had been damaged by a hurt and jealous heart.  She was upset that her sister got a new bike and she didn't.

This time I did something right.  I prayed for this little girl and I asked her to pray.  As she choked back tears, I heard words beyond her years.  "God my heart hurts so much.  Make my hurt go away."

This time I did it right.  This time I saw my daughter through God's eyes, not my own.  This time I forgave.  But what about tomorrow?  And the next day? And the next?  This won't be the last time that the hurt causes pain in others, especially my other children.

Most of the time, I'm not quick to forgive.  Letting those words slip from my mouth and take root in my heart like Sweet Pea did is hard.  I don't want to see my children hurt, any of them, especially by each other.  It is not natural or easy to forgive.  But God requires it of us.  It helps to show His heart.  So tomorrow I will get up and pray harder and work harder for God to take out myself and put in Him. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Favorite Blogs About Foster Care and Adoption

Looking for a good blog about Foster Care or Adoption?  I have several favorites.  I have a lot I read and follow.  Most of those can be found on the side.  So here is my criteria for sharing the ones I did.

1. The blogger has to post pretty regularly.
2. They have to talk about foster care or adoption pretty regularly.
3. They have to be a blog that is both real, but also encouraging.

Life With a Personal God-Jami Kaeb

I have the amazing privilege of knowing Jami in real life.  She has a passion to follow after the heart of Jesus.  She has adopted internationally and through the Foster Care system and is now working on her second international adoption.  She is incredibly real with what God is showing her.

The Zap Life-Aaron and Julie Zapata

I have so blessed to call Aaron and Julie friends.  They haven't been on this Foster Care journey long but God has already taught them so much.  So often I find my head nodding along as I read agreeing with everything they wrote.

One Thankful Mom-Lisa Qualls

I happened to stumble upon Lisa's blog one day and prayed a quick pray of thanks to God.  Lisa is so very real.  She shares her life and her family but is still great at respecting what needs to be private.  She is an encouragement and blessing.  I'm always thrilled to see you put up a blog post, even though I know that often her words will be hard to hear and ever so convicting.

The Forgotten Blog

The Forgotten Initiative was started locally by Jami Kaeb (see above) and has grown throughout the nation.  This blog always has great "in the trenches" stories of the fostering community.  It is motivating.

No Greater Joy Mom-Adeye

Wow! is about all I can say.  Adeye and her husband (who blogs at No Greater Joy Dad) have opened their hope to some tough special needs kids.  They have at least 4, but I believe the number may be greater.  Since we are caring for a special needs child this blog is always a blessing to read.  If you do NOT wanted to be convicted and moved about the turmoil and hardship of special needs children around the world then this is NOT the blog for you!

Do you have a foster or adoption blog that you just love to follow?  Feel free to share in the comments section.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy 7th Birthday Big Brother

Dear Big Brother,

Seven.  It's hard to believe that when we said yes to you, you were FIVE.  That seems so little compared to seven.  It's amazing.

The last year has been an incredible year.   You have gone through so many things that a child never should have to go too.  We've watched you get hurt and disappointed.  We've watched you deal with feelings and healthy and good ways.  We've held you while you cried.  And smiled at your laughing (most of the can get pretty crazy sometimes).

You got thrust into being a big brother.  You weren't even used to being a brother yet, let alone a big brother.  That is something that is so hard for you Daddy and I to remember.  And we've seen you grow in that area too.  It still can be hard but you are beginging to think about how you can help your siblings and put them first.  And I am so proud of you. 

You are also quit the helper.  With you height, this is an awesome gift.  You have learned to hang laundry on the line with the best of them.  Your muscles are growing and you are getting strong.  We are also proud of you for this.

This next year is not going to be easy kiddo.  There are going to be a lot of things happening that you won't like or understand.  We are going to be here for you, to love and support you.

Happy Birthday Sweet Boy.  I am so blessed to call you my son!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013



I remember when I overheard my mom tell someone, "I don't like it when the kids go back to school.  I really like having them around."  As a kid that makes you feel pretty good.  I wanted to enjoy my kids that much.

Last summer Big Brother started school six weeks after he arrived at our house.  I was looking forward to it by week one.  I needed him to go to school.  And I mean NEED!  I told Tony that attitude bummed me out.  I wanted to enjoy having my kids home.  I wanted to look forward to summer.  I wanted to be sad they were going back.  "Maybe next summer," I said. 

Tony laughed.

Christmas break came......I was counting down the days for school to begin.

Spring break come....I was counting down the days for school to begin.

On to Summer.  I did something right for summer.  I implemented our daily schedule.  It was incredibly helpful.  It allowed for structure and entertainment for the kids.  It helped me to not rely on the TV to make it through the day.  And it allowed me to accomplish some of my goals for the summer.

So now that we are 1 week away from school for Big Brother and 2 weeks away from school for Little Man and Baby Girl, what do I think?

Well, I am ready for them to go back.  They are ready to go back.  We have children who I need a break from.  We have children who need a break from me.  We have children who need more time with me.  And we have children who need a break from each other.  My daily and weekly tasks (like laundry, paying bills, balancing the check book, straighten the house) are also begging my children to go back to school.

So while I am ready for my kids to go back, I am also beyond thankful that we had a fun summer.  We enjoyed the library, swam, did a garden, did lots of crafts, visited family, and lots of other things.  I'm a pretty happy momma.

Monday, August 5, 2013

July/August Goals

I've been enjoying summer and it has caused so many things to go to way side.  It's also caused me to catch up on many things.  Goal tracking has not been a priority, but I'm going to take a guess at this.

*Read 75% of the Out-of Sync Child (I read a tiny bit....definetely NOT this much though), Finish Hearts at Home (I finished MOST of if only I could figure out what I did with it)
*Complete "Save My Sanity" 21 steps

*Continue talking about Emergency Kits.
*Finish paper work prep for Awana.

*Life Books
*Right a note to our Case Worker.

*Do two in home dates.
*Do one out of home date. (If going to a wedding and court counts)
*Write a love note to Tony
*Sit down once a month to re-evaluate schedules and cut what needs to be cut, add what needs to be added.

*Pay off a set amount of debt.
*Finish paying to X-Box and dryer fund. (Funny thing....we more then finished this.  But our washing machine broke.  So we put the dryer on hold....bought a washing machine and we are now saving up money for the dryer.  So thankful we had the cash set aside already.)

August GOALS:
*Read 75% of the Out-of Sync Child, Finish Hearts at Home, Finish Quirky Kids

*Continue talking about Emergency Kits.
*Finish paper work prep for Awana.

*Life Books
*Right a note to our Case Worker.

*Do two in home dates.
*Do one out of home date. 
*Write a love note to Tony
*Sit down once a month to re-evaluate schedules and cut what needs to be cut, add what needs to be added.

*Pay off a set amount of debt.
*Save up for dryer and new X-Box.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday Sweet Pea

To My Dearest Sweetie Pea,

Today we celebrate your fourth birthday.  These past years have been some of the most amazing four years I have ever known.  I have enjoyed getting to know every bit of you.  You are SO much like your Daddy and SO much like your Mommy!

Sweet Girl, God has asked you to do so much!  You don't have an easy task as a sister.  You sit in the car and at appointments for hours.  You take mistreatment from hurts of the past.  You deal with violations of your space and things.  And you handle it all like a champ.  I know it's not an easy road that you walk down, but I pray that one day you understand and accept that it is the path God has for you.

One thing you get from neither you Dad, nor me is your natural ability to love and connect with people!  You have such a gift.  Use it wisely, for God's glory.  He will allow you to do big things with it.

We always pray that you will be a World Changer and a Voice for the Voiceless.  I know you don't understand what that means now, but I pray some day you will. You CAN do big things in this world, for God's glory, by God's power.  He wants to use you in that way.

I thank God for each day I have with you.  I am so blessed to be your Mommy.  You fill my life with absolute joy.

I love you.  Happy Birthday.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Being Thankful

We are doing Awana at Home with our kids this summer and into the school year.  We absolutely love it.  There is no planning involved, very little supplies, and our kids have so much fun.  One night we talk about God is the Creator.  We talked about what we were thankful for that God made.  Then we went outside and drew it on the side walk.  I loved to see what my kids came up with.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pinterest Pin: Perfect or Problematic?

When I found frozen sidewalk chalk on Pinterest I was pretty excited.  My kids love sidewalk chalk, so to have it frozen just sounded fun.  So here's the breakdown...

What's Good?
  • It's simple and cheap to make.
  • It's a great summer time activity
  • It's different and unique.
  • My super sensory seeker loved it.  And when he was done he moved on to basic sidewalk chalk.
  • It's not harmful if eaten (as you can tell later on one of my kiddos did that).
What's Bad?
  • Oh my!  The mess!!!!  Clothing, hair, arms, everything.
  • It takes awhile for the actual chalk lines to show up, so for my littles they weren't happy about not being able to draw pictures.  They just kinda rubbed until it melted away.
  • It picks up all the dirt (I had just mowed, and the grass got ALL OVER the chalk).
Conclusion:  My kids enjoyed it enough that we will do it again, but it is not an all time favorite activity by any means.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Picture Perfect: Movie Night

One of my goals for this summer was to read chapter books to my kids.  It was a good memory form my childhood.  I also think it's so good for them to learn to listen to books without pictures, to learn to sit and listen, and to grow their love for reading.  We chose Charlotte's Web first.  Nana and  Papa had given the kids the new Charlotte's Web for Easter.  So after we had finished the book we watched the movie with pizza, popcorn, and M&M brownies.  It was fun!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Being Honest About Being Honest

The other day our kiddo had a rough time in Sunday School.  I felt like a miserable failure.  We had put some things into place so that the teacher would not have to go through this, but those things didn't work out.  The extreme agitation stemmed from Mommy and Daddy being gone the night before, so he didn't get everything the way her normally does....then Mommy and Daddy turning right back around and plopping him in Sunday School.

When I picked him up he was the worst I had ever seen.  Tony and I worked to get him calmed down, and we partially succeed (he was still pretty edgy, but not terrible).  We had a potluck at church, so lots of people.  I walked through most of that afternoon on the brink of tears.  I asked Tony if he could tell, he said he couldn't.

Really?  I'm not so good at hiding emotions.

Lots of people asked the, "how are you?" question.  And I know some of those people really did care.  But on my face was a smile and a "I'm alright."  I was NOT going to cry at a church potluck.  I was not going to blubber my way through a story that most people wouldn't understand anyway.  I was NOT going to be honest.

I think most of the time, that's the way it is.  I know that this person and this person and this person are struggling with all these things, but when we come face to face we plaster on fake smiles and say we are fine.  It is hard to find people to be honest with.

Why is that?  Fear of judgement? Fear of understanding? Fear of vulnerability?  Feeling like the other person lacks interest? Or time? Or compassion?  I know that this is true for why I don't take the time to listen to others.

I want to be a better listener, a more empathetic friend, a person to take the time.  I want to be that, because I seriously need others to be that for me at times. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

From Surviving to Thriving: Cups

From Thriving to Surviving is my series about how we vowed to thrive this year.  Here are one of the ways in which we do that.

Within the first two days that our kids arrived in our home I KNEW we had to do something different about our kids drinking cups.  Trying to keep track of four kids cups was a nightmare.  I knew within the first day of the water bottles I had boughten that they were a BIG mistake.  Then I spent the next three weeks trying to convince myself that they were just fine.

One day I was walking around Meijer and found these babies:

I love them.  
  • They are small so spills are not a big deal.
  • Each child has their own color and they know it.
  • I grab a set each morning and we are good to go all day.
  • They are very sturdy so my kids can drop them with no problem. 
  • They are fairly cheap.  (Around $5 for a set of four).
The next set of "cups" that helps us thrive is the kids' water bottles.  I snagged these metal water bottles at Old Navy.
Here is what I love about them:
  • They stay clean and "taste" free due to what they are made of.
  • They are adorable AND sturdy!
  • Did I mention they are study.  Our kids drop these ALL THE TIME.
  • We can keep them in the frig and grab them when we need them.
With four little kids it's so awesome to have something that they know is theirs.  There is no worry if one child drank after another.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

One Year Ago

This night, a year ago, we were saying yes to three children.  It has been quit a year.  We are often tired, stressed and overwhelmed, but we are also blessed.  Blessed to hear three more "Mommy" and Daddy"'s.  Blessed to hear three more giggles.  Blessed to get three more hugs.  Blessed to know three more voices among the crowd as our own.  Blessed by being placed into the middle of their mess.  Blessed by a God who chose us to care for and love on these kids.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Picture Perfect: Swim Lessons

Big Brother and Sweet Pea just recently completed swim lessons.  We are SO proud of them.  They did great and improved SO MUCH!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Picture Perfect: Father's Day

For Father's Day, Tony allowed time to go to the pool.  It was fun to watch the kids with their Daddy.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

There is Nothing Else

I don't know what it's like to feel so hurt that I try to hurt others.  

I don't know what it's like to go into a panic attack and lie as a defense mechanism when simple asked, "What are you doing?".  

I don't know what it's like to feel ugly and rejected by those I desire to
see me as beautiful and worth wild.  

I don't know what it's like to do everything in my power to bury my feelings as far as they can go and do everything in my power to forget that they are there.  

I don't know what's like to fake love and affection so that someone will think I am "sweet".
I do know what it's like to stare that sort of pain in the face every day.  

I do know what it's like to realize that I can tell someone that they are precious, but it's not going to make a difference.

I do know what it's like to mutter, "God I don't know how to handle this." continually (as in every moment) through out my day.

I do know what it's like to stand helplessly by as a child's heart breaks into a million pieces over and over and over again.
I pray that God, redeemer of all, works in big ways top change lives.

I pray that God, healer, reaches deep into hearts.

I pray that the God of miracles
would make his presence ever known.

I pray that peace would settle into this home.

I pray that truth would always be spoken, and little ears would be receptive.

I pray.....because I don't know what else to do.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

June/July Goals

*Finish C25K
*Read 75% of the Out-of Sync Child (read some but got through a decent amount 35-45% of Hearts at Home)
*Complete "Save My Sanity" 21 steps (wooomp, wooomp, waaa.....finish this up is just no fun)

*Begin the process of talking about Emergency Kits.

*Life Books
*Right a note to our Case Worker. (We will be getting a new CW in the  next month or two and so we want to write a note and give a gift this next month).

*Spend one night away for our anniversary.
*Write a love note to Tony
*Sit down once a month to re-evaluate schedules and cut what needs to be cut, add what needs to be added.

*Pay off a set amount of debt. (planning on paying what I need today!)
*Keep paying to X-Box and dryer fund. (83% saved)

*Read 75% of the Out-of Sync Child, Finish Hearts at Home
*Complete "Save My Sanity" 21 steps

*Continue talking about Emergency Kits.
*Finish paper work prep for Awana.

*Life Books
*Right a note to our Case Worker.

*Do two in home dates.
*Do one out of home date.
*Write a love note to Tony
*Sit down once a month to re-evaluate schedules and cut what needs to be cut, add what needs to be added.

*Pay off a set amount of debt.
*Finish paying to X-Box and dryer fund.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Favorite Kid's Books for Foster Care/Adoption

I am always looking for good books for my kids.  However, what's become important lately are good books that help my kid's understand what is going on in their lives right now.  So here are my favorite Foster Care/Adoption books

Explaining Foster Care to Foster Kids:

Maybe Days
By Jennifer Wilgocki

I would recommend this book for children six or older.  It is a great book to explain foster care, what is taking place, and how the system works.  I also love that the book ends encouraging kids to just be kids.  On a side note, Addilece loves this book.  It has really helped her understand our three fosters' lives.

Families Change
By: Julie Nelson

This book is GREAT for younger kids.  It's language is simple and short.  It was perfect for Baby Girl.

Kid's Experiencing Uncertainty About Love and Separation

The Kissing Hand
By: Audrey Penn

Some of our kids struggle greatly with separation when we leave.  They are terrified we will never return.  They also struggle with knowing that even if we are spending time with another child it doesn't mean we don't love them.  The kissing hand has given us a good visual reminder.  We kiss their hand and tell them to hold it tight if they need a Mommy/Daddy kiss for later.  Another book like this is, The Invisible String.  We personally  like The Kissing Hand better, but both have the same message.

Kid's Already in the Home

Product Details Bear with Me
By: Max Kornell

We looked high and low for a book to explain to Addilece what was about to take place in her home but were unable to find one.  This book is perfect.  It talks about a little boy as he welcomes his new "brother" into his home and the struggles and joys of that. 

Do you have a book you like to read to your child to explain what is happening in their Foster Care or Adoption journey? 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

From Surviving to Thriving: Summer Schedule

Our theme this year is that we will thrive instead of just surviving.  I thought I would share a few ways in which we have done just that.

First up, our summer schedule.  I grew up and we just had summer.  Not many plans or set schedules.  I love that easy going attitude to summer.  However, we are now parenting kids that can't handle that easy going, no plans type of life.  They need schedule and structure.  They need to know what their days will look like. 

I also had goals for this summer.  I wanted to begin reading chapter books to our kids.  It was a favorite memory from my child, and it's so good for them.  I also wanted to make sure we enjoyed our pool pass but had time to get other things done during the day.  I think it's really important that our kids don't slide academically during the summer so I wanted to make sure we had time like that built into routine.

So here is our schedule that we are following this summer.  It has worked out very well so far.

What do you do during the summer?  How do you fit in everything you want to do?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Parenting a Developemental Delay

Little Man has a "Developmental Delay".  This label can stick with him till he is 9 and it lands him an IEP.  This is awesome because it means if he goes home he will still receive services from the school district he is in. 

Little Man's biggest struggle is how he relates socially.  Social pressure can completely shut him down.  He will use aggressive ways to get people attention (taking a toy away, hitting, running into you, etc).  However, we think he is an extrovert.  (Shocker, right?).  He strongly desires to be around others, he just doesn't know how to communicate or build relationships with them.

This turns into an everyday struggle that I am unsure on how to handle still.   It's a fine line to walk and I feel like I'm not succeeding on either side of it.

As I said, he uses aggression to communicate.  So Addilece and Big Brother are building a block tower, then taking a ball to knock it down.  Little Man thinks, "hey that looks cool".  However, instead of asking if he can have a turn he just runs up and knocks it down.  When the older two communicate to him that this was not ok he knocks it down again, and again, and again.  After about two minutes I realize he just can't do it so I intervene. 

Little Man and I have a discussion about respect and talking it out.  He heads over to the older two and to my heart's delight says, "I play too?  Please?"  However, by this time Big Brother is annoyed and says no.  Again, momma intervenes and explains that he communicated well he needs to be allowed to participate.  Big Brother lets him join in, Little Man is thrilled.

The problem....Little Man still doesn't understand the rules of engagement and has no comprehension of taking turns.  Soon we are back to Big Brother yelling and Little Man knocking down every block he puts up.  This time I ask Little Man to play somewhere else.

The problem....Little Man is an extrovert.  He wants to play and won't take no for an answer.  So over the next 10 minutes I break up the fights and try to redirect as Little Man runs the scooter into the block tower, steals the ball they are throwing at the tower, and lays right by it to knock it over with his hand.

So what do I do?  I want my other three to learn that their brother struggles with this and how to adequately communicate with him.  However, I also need Little Man to learn respect and the ability to listen to words.  And I don't have time to spend the entire summer mediating their play (and if I chose to do that, I really would accomplish NOTHING else).  When he heads back to school in the fall his play won't be mediated, so we need to work on it.

The point of this story.....I'm not sure there is one, expect I'm tired.  (ha, ha).  One of these days I'm going to write a post about how Little Man has completely changed me, grabbed my heart, and shown me God's heart.  For now, I'm tired and not sure how to navigate these waters.

I would love to hear from you?  Are you a teacher or a parent of special needs with a suggestion of how to teach on both sides of this?  What are some good resources to help us navigate?  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Happy Father's Day

 I just wanted to take some time and say thank you to some of the great men that are in my and kids' lives.


One of the greatest blessings in my life was having an adoptive grandmother.  I was so thankful when Bob and Carol were brought into our lives and when they chose to be that for Addilece first and then the rest of our children!  Bob always has a smile and a hug for our kids and ourselves.  I'm thankful for they way he's except each of us as his own.


I have been so blessed to have such Godly examples for in-laws.  Mike raised his son to be a true man of God, finding his foundation only in the word.  He has a servants heart and as always giving to others (especially his family).  He adores his grand-kids and they adore him.

 I am so blessed to have one incredible father.  He has shown me what a Godly marriage looks like and what a Godly husband should be doing.  He has taught to always go back to the Word to find truth.  He loves a "healthy" debate and I'm pretty sure I get my stubbornness from him.  I know that I am where I am today due to the way my Dad (and Mom) brought me up.  He dotes on his grand-kids and loves being a Papa. 
My Husband:

I can not say enough incredible things about my husband.  We are on the journey we are on because of him.  He is a rock solid husband and an amazing father.  He blows me away with his patience and steadiness.  He has built his life on the truth of Jesus Christ.  He is always reading and playing with his kids, no matter how long and tiring his day was.  He is taking time to invest in each of them personally, hoping to see them grow up to plan their faith firmly in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Please Note:  The pictures have only Addilece in them due to the regulations of protecting our other children's privacy.  These four men invest in and care about each of our children.  However, I do not have appropriate pictures for this blog to post of them.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Happy 5th Anniversary

Hey Tony,

I know you won't actually read this, but I thought I would address you anyway.  It  has been five incredible years together.  Five.  That's so hard to believe.  Neither of us would of imagined that we would be were we are today. 

In fact if you would of said, "Hey, how about parenting five kids in the next five years? Four of them being Foster?  One being ten?  One being six?  Disabilities you can't even name right now?"  I would of grabbed my train and ran.

Or if you would of said, "What if we spend our fifth anniversary sitting in a Pediatric Specialist office and enjoy pizza with my parents later that night?".  I might have told you that you had better be joking or I will never say "I do".

Somehow little by little God has brought us to this point.  And I wouldn't change if for anything.  I have a husband that I can share every joy and every tear with.  I have a husband that makes me laugh till I cry and let's me cry when I'm upset. 

I'm so thankful that you are following God each step of the way in our marriage.  I'm thankful for your steadiness and level head AND that you don't always let it get in the way of our decisions.

Thanks for 5 amazing years.

I love you!