Monday, December 29, 2014

Excited to Annouce....

We are EXCITED to announce that on JANUARY 5th our family will officially become a family of SIX.  Our kids will say yes to being a Snyder and we will say yes forever to them.  It has been a long journey.  We are excited to close this chapter and begin a new one!

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.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Living Life with Littles: Morning School Routine

The school year has started. For my older kids they are already well settled.  My little ones, however, are still trying to get back in the grove but will be there soon.  We have a pretty set morning routine that our kids follow.  I guess I should say I have routine I make them follow.  So set, that I made Tony learn it because he kept messing it up and messing our whole morning up.  I'm thankful for a husband that is on board and does learn what the routine is, rather then blowing me off as a nut job. 

The basics of the routine are the same for each kid.  They must get dressed BEFORE they eat breakfast.  This has been a huge time saver for us.  I've found the kids are way more motivated to get dressed if breakfast depends on their speediness. 
As my kids have changed, each of their routines-while still holding the basic structure-have become individualized.  I've also discovered that trying to remember the details of all four routines takes up brain space that I can't afford to loose.  So this year I made up these sheets for each of the kids.  I have one to hang on each of their bulletin boards in the living room, one for the fridge, and one for each of their dressers.  In reality, I only have the living room one hung up.  Before the end of the year I promise I will have it in the other two places. 

All it took was Word and clip art I found by Googling.  I used the same images on each child's thing.  Big brothers is typed in words, not pictures, to encourage him to read more often.  A set routine has saved our mornings and gets us out the door without too much panic or yelling.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Getting Real: Our Decision to Public School Pt. 2

Last week I shared my heart of sending Sweet Pea to public school.  The Getting Real post focused on why I was struggling, even though this was the BEST decision for our family.  This week I was to focus of the why behind the decision.  It wasn't one reason for our decision but many little things that added to the overall picture.

Sweet Pea is a social girl.  When we would go to the school to get the twins from PreK, Sweet Pea would get out of the car just so she could stand by the school fence.  Her hope was one of the kids at recess would come up and talk to her.

I learned when homeschooling Sweet Pea for preschool that it is a lifestyle.  You have to make it the number one priority of your day.  You have to be ok not getting housework done or eating breakfast for supper, because all you did that day was school.  We have five appointments every week.  We have children when anger issues, attachment problems, disablities, and needing help with their own stuff from school.  I knew that I could not focus on the needs of my other three children and homeschool Sweet Pea the way she deserved.

At the time we made the decision Little Man and Baby Girl were going to remain in the same PreK class.  They would arrive home at 11 am, interrupting our day right in the middle of it.  They both need quit a bit of attention when they get home, so it wasn't like I could give them a hug and send them to play.  Since then we have made the decision to send one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  Having one of them home while trying to focus my attention on teaching, just would not of worked.  Like I said, they both need a lot of attention.

One thing I am thrilled about, now that the twins are split, is I get to spend individual time with them.  They each have specific needs of their own that we really need to address.  We have a unique opportunity to do that before they both are in school full time.

Homeschooling is still in my heart.  I love being a part of my child's learning.  I love watching the excitement on their face.  However, at this time the best place for each of our children is in the public schools.  They have wonderful teachers and a staff that cares.  We are privileged to have that.  Maybe some day homeschooling will be part of our lives again. For now, I'm excited to see how much growth our family will make in the next year.  And I'm learning to cherish special time with each of my kids.

Why did you make the schooling decisions you did for your family?  What was the blessing in those decisions?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Getting Real: Our Decision to Public School Pt. 1

This is the last day of Big Brother and Sweet Pea's first week of school.  Last year we shared our decision to homeschool Sweet Pea (you can read about that here and here).  When I shared it I thought for sure we would be homeschooling again for Kindergarten.  In fact, Kindergarten was the one year Tony and I were 100% positive we would homeschool when we had children that age.  We weren't big fans of full day school for five year olds and Common Core seemed to cement that decision.  Yet, here we are, a fully public school family.

Last year, about a month into the school year I watched a mom linger as her son ran to his line at school.  She turned to me and said, "it's just so hard to let him go."  I smiled but inside I was judging her (I know, I know....BIG mistake).  I mean here I was sending three kids to school, was it that big of a deal?  Why did she find it so hard?  Certainly a month later she was beyond this, right?

I thought the first day would be hard with Sweet Pea.  I would cry, she would be a bit shy, then we would move on with life.  As my little girl stood like an expert in line, barely turning to wave (the wave was to the adults in general, she didn't even care where I was), I was nothing but happy.  She was excited, this is what she needed.  But then day two came around and suddenly it dawned on me, a school day is really long.  This isn't going to stop at day one.  She is going to be gone for most of the day, five days a week.

Suddenly I find myself wanting to be that mom from last year.  I wanted to linger just a bit, because this IS hard.  I just want to spend one more minute watching her, enjoying being her mom.

And even though this is hard, I have also been blown away by thankfulness.

I'm thankful that this decision was based solely on what was best for our family.  We didn't have to take into account bad school districts or horrible teachers.

I'm thankful my kids go to a school that tries to give these kids an awesome education with teachers who love and invest in them, despite diminishing budgets.  I'm thankful that each of my kids got incredible teachers, and I don't have to worry about what they will be taught all day.

I'm thankful for a small conservative town that holds pretty true to Christian beliefs.  I'm not worried about the movies my kids will watch or the amount of foul language they hear. Or many other things.

I'm thankful for this opportunity for our entire family.

I'm thankful my kids love school and are doing well in it.

Mostly I'm thankful for a God who walks me through even the hard times, even the lonely times.  Who watches over my children at school.  Who desires His best for each of us.

Next week I will talk about the WHY behind our decision.  But until then what does your children's schooling look like this year?  What are you thankful for as the year begins?

Monday, August 11, 2014

California and a Wedding

What gets my whole family out of the midwest and into sunny Califonia, why a wedding of course.  My oldest brother got married this summer to one amazing woman.  I'm so excited that she is part of our family.  God definetely brought these two together.

Sweet Pea, Baby Girl, and I headed out with my family for a week of fun, relaxation, and memories.  We visited the beach, walked around Downtown Disney, swam at the house we rented out, and enjoyed the new landscape. 

Of course, the highlight of the whole week was the wedding.  It was a beautiful God centered wedding followed by a fun dance filled reception.  The girls and I made so many memories.  I'm so thankful that we got to be their for my brothers big day.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Happy 8th Birthday Big Brother

Dear Big Brother,

Today is your big day.  It is such a joy and privilege to watch you grow up.  I'm honored that this is the 3rd birthday I get to spend with you.

You have done and overcome so much this past year.  You have learned to succeed in the classroom.  You have discovered you are quit the Mathematician.  You have taught and played many bored games with your Grandparents, us, your siblings, babysitters (just about anybody who will sit down and play with you).  You've been part of a team.  You've finished an Awana book and then finished it again.  You've made good, close friends.  We are so proud of you for all of it.

You have quit a hill to overcome.  I know it's not going to be easy but each year you climb more then the year before!  You are going to be quit an extraordinary young man.  We are blessed that we get to be the ones to watch you do it!

I know you have many questions about your birth mom.  I feel so inadequate trying to answer all of them.  I wish I could be everything you need in a mom.  I wish I could have held you as an infant and sang to you.  Or been there in your scariest, darkest moment to reassure you everything would be okay.  Even though I wasn't there for the past, I want you to know that Dad and I are going to be here for all the exciting things in the future.  We will cheer you on through many sporting events and enjoy every concert.  We will cheer as you get your drivers license and cry when you graduate from high school.  We can't wait to spend every moment of it with you as our son.

I love you.  I hope your day is a wonderful one and I hope you have a great 8th year.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Concerning Foster Care: Ethnecity

If you are going into Foster Care you have to answer many questions regarding the types of children you are willing to take.  Everything from their age and gender to their race and amount of needs.  A child's race or ethecity seemed like an easy question to answer.  However, looking back I realize how naive I was.  My heart and reality were not the same age.  I'm not saying we made the wrong decision when we said yes to four bi-racial children, we didn't.  I do, however, wish I had been a little more aware of my world.
If you are trying to answer the question of what ethenicity of a child is a good fit for your home here are some questions to think over.

What will that child's world of color be like when the enter your home? 
If they are going to school will it be mainly white children?  Are their children of other races at the school, if so which ones?  What will their Sunday School class or dance class or play group look like?  Will they be the only hispanic or black child in that setting?

Can you handle their hair needs?
If you bring a child of another ethnicity into your home, can you provide them with the proper hair care?  When Little Man came into our home we were not allowed to cut his hair (rights the parents hold on to).  We had a little boy with long eye lashes and big brown eyes and hair three times as long as his twin sisters.  I watched a few hours of you-tube videos to figure out how to corn row his hair.  Are you going to be able to afford the products that go in their hair?  Do you have access to them?  I've discovered how skimpy our local stores are with hair care products are for our children.  

What will the neighbors think?
I knew the town we were bringing the kids into was not very racially diverse but did have some diversity.  However, I was completely caught off guard when someone called to tell me that an associate of theirs had driven by our house and wanted to know what certain children where in our yard.  The question included a word that started with "n" and made me sick to my stomach.  We have a certain neighbor that talked to us at least once weekly for the first year we lived here and has talked to us twice in the two years since. (We have been in Foster Care for a bit over two years).

How will people of their own race feel?
Some of the harshest looks we've received have been from the black community.  Some will be incredibly supportive, others will feel like their children are being snatched away.  

What does your extended family think?
Will these children boot you out of family holidays?  While people want to know about the ______ (insert some politically incorrect way of referring to you child) you are caring for and ask you right in front of you?  Being a foster child tends to exclude these kids in the first place, they don't need their race stacked against them also.

Can you provide them with racial similar role models?
This is an area we lack in.  I see it affecting Baby Girl the most, but I think it will have an impact on Big Brother also.  Baby Girl has a lot of identity questions and problems.  I will never forget the day we walked by a woman in a restaurant and she loudly pointed out that they also had brown skin.

These questions are just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to the decision about whether to bring a child of a different race into your home.  Many other families are doing it, some with much success others with none, seek one out and chat with them.  If you don't know of a family find a blog online about a trans-racial family. 

Bottom Line:  These children are precious and wonderful.  I love discovering more about their race.  I love trying to figure out how to keep true to their ethnic history (such as letting Baby Girls hair go nautrual instead of braided).  However, it is WAY more difficult then I ever imagined it could be.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Swim Lessons

One of the things we try to do for our kids each summer is swim lessons.  It's such a great way to get our kids comfortable in the water.  Our small town pool only offers one on one lessons.  It's a bit more expensive but it's worth the individual time, especially with a good guard.

This year Sweet Pea, Big Brother, and Baby Girl each took lessons.  Sweet Pea definitely made the most difference from beginning to end.  She is becoming super comfortable in the water.  Big Brother is learning some great swimming techniques and can now swim a good length of the pool.  Baby Girl has been able to concentrate on better technique, such as focused and strong kicks.

Little Man has not taken lessons because of his ASD.  However, this kid!  He's quit the little swimmer.  He especially likes to imitate Daddy.  He will be self taught in no time and probably be the best swimmer of the four.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Getting Real: That Baby I "Should" Have

If you know our family or you've been on our blog for several years then you most likely know our past.  However, if you are new around here, then you might not know our history.  Within hours of Addilece's birth I was taken into emergency surgery for D&C that led to an emergency hysterectomy.  I was hemorrhaging and it saved my life.  You can read more of that story here.

We were 21 years old.  It was not only a shock to our system but to many others, as well.  A young couple, just starting their family and suddenly they're unable to have the children they have been dreaming and hoping for all their lives.

When we talked about adoption and went into foster care my heart hoped for a baby.  I'm thankful for a husband that through that time didn't shoot down that notion but also reminded me that God would place the children he desired into our home.  We were licensed 0 to 10 and while a part of me still hoped for a baby to adopt I knew deep down, that wasn't were God was leading us. We were suppose to foster older kids, which was quickly confirmed with a call that included two 2 (almost 3) year olds as the youngest children.

However, that elusive baby that we should have, we still have many people pushing for it.  They are well meaning, caring people.  It's still hard to wrap their minds around a young couple, who aren't able to have what they "want" (or rather what we used to want).  I love that people are so supportive.  However, God choosing not to give us an infant is not because God is denying us anything. 

Is a baby what will fill our family?  Make it complete?  No.  Only God can fill and complete our family.  A baby, placed in our family by my own desire and not God's, would be harmful.  Us seeking to fill our hearts on our own only creates hurt.  God must be the one to fill our hearts.  Each child he places in our home, regardless of age, is placed their for a reason.  It would be easy to justify the pursuit of a baby.  Many people would support and even encourage it.  However, without God as the center of that decision (which he is not right now), it would mean putting a burden to fill a need on a child, rather then on God.

I'm pretty sure we will never get a baby.  It's just not where God has placed us.  Would I like one? Yes.  Do I need one? No.  It's not what completes me or fills me.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Happy 5th Birthday Sweet Pea

Dear Sweet Pea,

You are FIVE today!  How in the world are you five?  One whole hand, or a "Hand Full" as you would say.  Of course, while you are five numerically, you speak like your thirty.  You say things so straight and serious that people can't help to laugh.

In a couple of weeks you will be starting Kindergarten.  I'm not sure how we go to this point.  You are so ready.  You are ready to spread your wings and go make lots and lots of friends.  School can be hard though, it can destroy a person self esteem.  So I want you to remember are one amazing little girl.

You have a deep love for people and have a way of forming amazing relationships with people.  Use that gift to tell others about Christ. Use it to love on people in a deep and personal way.

You are the most forgiving person I know.  You don't hold grudges.  You don't keep lists.  It teaches me and humbles me everyday.

Recently you started noticing so many things outside of yourself, it makes you so grown up.  I came down for a date for Daddy and you looked at me and declared, "You look really nice Mom."  You growing up is bittersweet.  I will miss the little you but I look forward to the relationship I hope we have in the future.  I look forward to watching you grow into a woman and go off on your own adventures.

I know your Daddy and I have asked you to be part of life that you probably would not have choosen yourself.  I want you to know that we don't expect you to follow in our footsteps.  However, we hope that one day you will understand why we choose this path, why God called us to it.  We pray that you would find the path God would call you too and you would follow it with your whole heart.

We love you sweet girl!  We hope your fifth birthday is an incredible day and your fifth year is full of amazing memories! 

Love, Mom

Monday, July 28, 2014

Baseball Season

We recently finished up our first season of sports with our kids.  I've always wanted to do a Getting Real on our views of sports, but this is not that post.  Maybe someday soon I will do that.

Sweet Pea up at bat.
Big Brother and Sweet Pea played t-ball this year.  Yes, the one base, no outs type of t-ball.  It was absolutely the perfect introduction for our family into sports.  The kids had a great coach who worked hard with them.  They were on the same team, which was also fun.  The practices took place right before the games and the games were only on Saturday.  For a busy family, this was a great way to work around our schedule.

Big Brother up at bat.
Sweet Pea in particular got a lot better through out the season.  We've also seen improvement

in Big Brother.  Next year it will be a bit more competitive for him, but it was good to have a year of the basics.

Thankful for these four ant their commitment to attend games.  By the end of the season all six grandparents where able to make it to at least one game.
We are excited to possibly have all four playing next year, although we are assuming Little Man will do so with assistance from us. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Getting Real: Questioning a Diagnosis

It has been just over a year since we received the official diagnosis that Little Man had Autism.  It came with relief, answers, and help.  However, in the last year I have found myself living in a lot of doubt.

Autism.  It's a pretty hot topic.  As of now there is only speculation to the cause and "cure" of Autism.  A debate that I am not willing to engage in.  The process to diagnose it can be tedious or simple.  We went the tedious route.  We had phone interviews, a questionnaire (300 pages long), documents from the school, developmental reports, a developmental screening done by a team of experts, and an appointment with the specialist who made the official diagnosis.  It was not done lightly.

At first all of this offered reassurance that yes the diagnosis was right.  However, as time has gone one I have spent hours wondering if something went wrong.  I feel like I'm staninding with a wall of evidence behind me but doubt makes me unable to stand on it's assuances.

Tony and I have sat in a room where we have had multiple professionals say things like, "well, I'm not sure what you told them but..." or "we don't see that here, he's NOT doing that" or "we know a lot of kids have been misdiagnosed."  The "I'm not sure how he got this disagnosis" tends to sting.

As Tony and I dealt with a new situation in which Little Man was not coping well, Tony looked at me and said, "This is how I know it wasn't wrong."  The evidence is there, the behaviors are there.  However, as a mom living in a world that wants to debate my child's disability more then it wants to help my child with his disability it can seem very lonely.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Living Life with Littles: Daily Helper

My kids ALL want to be the one to choose the show.  They ALL want to help in the kitchen.  They ALL want to pick the drink for supper.  NONE of them want to help with dishes.  NONE of the them want to set the table.  Based on this post by I Can Teach My Child we dealt with it all in one fell swoop. 

Every day, based on age order, we get a new helper.  Each child spends 3 days doing something and one day "off".  Sometimes that means they do or get a lot and other times it doesn't really affect them.  It all depends on how our day goes.

Choice Day:

If it's their choice day then that child gets to make all the choices for the day.  They also get to be first at everything.  So they get to choose the show, what we have to drink for supper, what they want for lunch, and on and on.  They love it when it's their choice day.  I love that I'm not constantly trying to remember whose turn it is for each indivual thing.

Kitchen Helper:

The Kitchen Helper gets to help with meals.  They also set the table at supper time.  Over all they really like this job and I like that it gets them in the kitchen more.

Dishes Helper:

The dishes helper helps clean out the strainer (to the best of their ablitity) and they help rinse and put dishes in the strainer when mom is doing a new load.

These three things have taken so much "thinking" and "remembering" away from me and taken a lot of fight out of our day.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Getting Real: The Hero Mentality of Foster Care Pt. 2

If you haven't gotten a chance to read part of of the Hero Mentality, please do so!  It talks about why viewing foster parents is dangerous for the children those parents are caring for.

In part of the newest Batman, in order for the common good and protection of all the image of Batman must be destroyed.  His reputation is ripped to shreds.  Hero's tend to fall and when they do, they fall far.

I rarely go a week with out one of the following statements (or something similar) said to me: "I couldn't do what you are doing."  "Thank you for doing what you do for these kids." "These kids couldn't ask for  better home."  People are trying to be encouraging and supportive.  I completely understand that, and I am thankful for the desire to support and encourage.

However, the problem is--I am human.  I make so many mistakes as a foster parent.  I'm not saying that to be modest.  I used to think I was a good momma.  I used to think I was a good wife.  I used to think I was good at doing ministry outside my home.  NOW...I have questioned everything I know about myself.  (And in many ways that's been good because I've been able to see God step into places where I once thought myself to be good enough.)

Holding parents to a Hero Mentality does two things:

It places the foster parent on a pedestal. The higher it goes, the bigger the fall when that parent messes up.  And mess up they will.  Recently a foster mom was convicted of shaking her foster baby.  It was unjustified, it wasn't right, it's not excusable.  But, what blew me away was how judgmental people are.  I heard statement after statement of "they placed children into her home to be protected and she just went and hurt them"  Again, I'm not saying that she is justified.  However, I have such sorrow for her.  What drove her to that point? Could more training have helped? How low had the saddness and loniless and pain of being a foster parent taken her?

Second, it makes foster parenting seem impossible to accomplish. If someone views a foster parent as extraordinary then they aren't even going to consider that role for themselves.  There is a huge need for more foster parents.  It doesn't take a nursing degree, a master's in special education, an extraordiary gift, or a magical power.  It simple takes someone who is willing to say no to some of their own desires and yes to a child in need of love and saftey.  That doesn't make it easy or fun, but it also isn't impossible.

I don't want to be viewed as a hero.  It hurts my kids, it hurts me, it hurts foster care.  I think if we took the time to think of foster parents as people just like us we would see more people desire to become one and we would see more support given to those who are already doing it.   

Have you ever felt like you were placed on a pedestal you didn't want to be on?  Have you ever fallen from someones graces for being less then perfect?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Getting Real: The Hero Mentality of Foster Care Pt 1

We were at a dinner and someone was asking me about foster care, why and how we got into it.  "That's very.................................nice of you."

I'm not sure he meant nice but he was speaking along the lines of the "charity" or "goodness of our hearts" to take these kids that are not our own in.  There is a hero mentality in foster care.  Not by the foster parents, but by society in general.  It's a belief that what we do is extra ordinary.  We are hero's, rescuing these kids from a horrible past.

Here's part of the problem with that.  Our kids do not view us as rescuers, but rather as preventing them from being with their family.  Let me repeat that: our children do not view us as rescuing them from their past, rather they see us as preventing them from being with their families.

Early on in Baby Girl's counseling her Counselor taught us to pass the buck and "always push the blame up the ladder".  Blame the agency, blame the judge, always pass it on.  She said that because often our children turn around and blame us for being in foster care.

I hear this out of my children's mouths at least once a week: "I'm mad at you because I want to live with my birth family."  Or "I'm mad at you because I don't want you to be my mom, I want my birth mom."  Or "I won't show you respect because you make me live here, I don't want to live here."

We've been working on this for two years and I still here that at least once a week.  

The hero mentality damages our children.  It gives them a sense that they should be grateful to us.  It makes them believe that they owe us something for all we've "given up" for them.  It COMPLETELY goes against true love!  It COMPLETELY goes against healing these kids.

We are not the hero's for rescuing these kids, because we didn't rescue them.  They are the hero's because of all they are choosing to overcome on a daily basis.  We do not need gratitude for raising them, rather we are privileged to have them in our family.  At the core it's not about us, it's about these kids.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Living With Littles: Chores

There are lots and lots of blogs and Pinterest boards toting the best way to do chores with your child.  I find other family chore systems so interesting.  We approach ours in three different ways.

Family Chores:

We are a family and there are jobs we will do because we are a family.  Helping get ready for dinner and clean up dinner would be a way that we work together as a family.  Their is no reward for this.  We simply expect our children to chip in.
Baby Girl holding a root beer float at the park, one of our chore rewards
Daily, Personal Chores:

Every day we have a list of chores for our kids to do.  Usually they are doing around two to four chores each day which includes helping to pick up the house, bringing down the dirty clothes basket, cleaning the landing, watering plants, vacuuming, etc.  For every chore that our child completes they get a rock.  They can also earn up to three rocks per day based on their attitude while cleaning: happy heart, fast feet, diligent hands.  We are working together to fill a jar, when the jar is full we get a fun family activity.  For these jobs their is a reward but it's aimed at building family togetherness.
Sweet Pea with the elephant she worked several weeks to save up for.  We were so proud of her!

Paid Jobs:

We adapted this system from some friends.  We loved what they were doing but needed to modify it for our family.  Tony and I don't believe a child should necessarily get paid to do regular household jobs, we also don't believe in allowances.  However, we do want our children to learn about budgeting, tithing, and wise spending.

Each Saturday we make a list of "above and beyond jobs" for the kids.  This includes everything from washing down walls to picking up sticks in the yard to cleaning out the van.  These are jobs that we do not require our children to do on a regular basis but may need done on that Saturday.  Each job is given an amount of money its worth.

Starting with the earliest riser (past 6 am) and going to the latest riser we give the kids a chance to choose jobs.  We do not require that they sign up for a job, but if they do its theirs.  "Pay day" is at 5 pm.  We do not hound, pester, or remind the kids of their jobs.  If they are not done by 5 pm then they get to do the job for free.

Side Note: Due to Little Man's disabilities we tend to steer him to certain jobs.  We also require him to do his job immediately after breakfast.  He does not have to sign up for a job.  However, he does not understand the consequences of not working, so we do not allow him a choice in the matter.

It works like a charm.  We get a ton of work done very quickly on Saturday mornings, our kids are learning some great life skills, and they are learning money management.  It's also fun to see their desire to buy something drop when the realize that it's their money they must spend.  The first three weekends we did this we had a couple of kiddos work for free.  On occasion a child will decide playing outside or watching a movie is more fun the working and time slips away.  However, MOST of the fight of work is gone.

How does your family handle chores?  Do you pay your child to work?  How do you handle money management?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Just a Note.  I want to do more life blogging.  We have family from all over the US that keeps up with the blog.  Also, everyday life blogs are some of my most popular.  So I would like to include everyday things that happen to us.  

You mean they had to do this EVERY time they wanted water???
This past weekend we headed about an hour away to camp.  Like many other people, we like to camp over Memorial Day weekend.  We've done it for the past few years.  Camping is so relaxing to us.

The first night we were there we noticed a family walking by.  I saw one black child, then another, and then a very white father.  In my mind my adoption/foster care feelers immediately went up.  The next morning their oldest began to become super friendly with our kids.

One thing led to another and a hike turned into a friendship.  After lots of fellowships with hikes, shared smores, and kids as playmates we walked away feeling incredibly blessed.  This family lives close to us, in fact we have several similar connections, not to hard in the type of circles and community we belong to.

Ok Mom.  I have my b-na-ku-ls.  Let's go camping!
This family greatly blessed us.  What a sweet connection and friendship.  The mom and I bonded over managing that thick curly hair, racial identity, homeschooling, and much more.  I kept telling Tony, it's such a God thing.  I'm so glad we exchanged information and we can stay in contact with this family.  It would be fun to camp with them again.  When I told Sweet Pea they lived in the same town that we went to church in she got incredibly excited.  Not that is an awesome friendship!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Getting Rea: Where My True Ministry Lies

We are wrapping up a very busy season of our lives.  We have a few odds and ends to tie up.  Some bags to put away.  Things to gather into a box to give to those who need them.  However, the bulk of the work is done.  Our time to close out this chapter in our lives as the leaders of Awana has come.

For those of you who know us well, you know we have a heart beat for Awana.  We have been in it since we were in Cubbies (Preschool).  For me I am a Citation Award winner (10 books in 10 years, over a thousand verses memorized in since Cubbies).  We have a legacy of parents with a heart beat for Awana.  And we have been involved in almost every aspect of it from Quizzing to AwanaGames to the missionaries Ministry Board.

However, we have come to a place in our lives where God has given  us the direction and freedom to step out of the role of leading this ministry.  (Side Note:  This does not mean we won't be back in future years to help fulfill needed roles, we are just not running the program at our church.)  At first the decision was easy and freeing.  God gave us great peace about the decision.  As our time went though, my heart began to hurt. 

See, we have already pulled out of almost every single ministry we were in, many of which we dearly loved, because our family need us to pull back.  We needed to be able to focus on our family.  But it wasn't enough.  Our kids were still not making the progress they should.  We were still running ridiculously crazy schedules and trying to fit all of our responsibility for this program in as well. The decision seems pretty clear cut, family comes first.

However, our church, like most churches, desperately needs people to step up and help serve.  We know that well, as Tony was the one in charge of recruiting for this ministry.  It tugs deep into my heart and I began to question...."God how will I teach my children to serve when I am not?  How will they find out the imporatnce of ministry when I am not in none?  I was raised that when there is a need to help in the church, you do.  How will I teach my kids that?"

God's answer was incredibly clear.  "Your number one ministry is NOT Awana and NOT in the church.  Your ministry is four little people who sit at your feet every day.  Your ministry is a husband who needs your attention.  Your ministry is the neighbor you only see when you are waving to them from your van, but now you need to invest in.  Your ministry is your heart focused on Me.  Your ministry, the one that I have put as number one in your life, is getting pushed aside.  Yes, these other things have value and importance but they are not the most important."

So, as sad as it is to leave this amazing ministry behind, Tony and I have already seen God bless that decision.  We've already seen some big answers to pray in our kids lives.  God sent an amazing man to take over Tony's position.  And we have felt a tremendous amount of love and support with this decision.  Not one person has pressured us to stay or called our decision wrong.  It's going to be hard at times next year to drop my kids off every week and turn and walk out the church doors.  However, I know we will reap huge benefits from the time we now have available.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Seeing the Child Through the Disabilty

Little Man's ASD is only one part of who he is.  It affects how he relates to everything in his life but it doesn't not make up his entire person.  Sometimes it can be hard for people to see the child through the disability.  So I would like to take you on a journey of my son and who he is.

He is sweet.  He's got this deep down sweetness that comes out in his giggle, his big dimpled smile, the way he grabs your hand or leans against you leg.

He desires to be "normal".  He doesn't want to be in a world of his own, excluded from others.  He needs help but he wants to have friendships.  He wants to play sports.

He loves his Grandpa and Papa.  The other day he told me, "Member mommy, I live with Dampa.  Ok.  Member?"  They are his favorites.

All boy.  He is 100% boy.  He loves Thomas, Lightening McQueen, Batman, and Spider Man.  He likes to wrestle and crash into furniture.  He loves to be outside and run in circles.  His favorite color is green!

He loves pizza, carrot sticks, and candy (my goodness does he like candy!)

He wants to grow up to be just like Daddy!  He loves Daddy's buttons on his shirts and likes to dress like him.  He is obsessed with Daddy working on the house and is so proud of himself when he gets to be a helper.

He is Momma's Little Man.  "I be with you, Mommy!"  Run to hug me when I pick him up from school screaming, "MOMMMY!"  And when Daddy says to hold an adults hand, he always picks mine.  I am definitely his favorite big person.

There is so much of him that is just like any other little boy.  Adventure and fun!  Climbing and rough housing.  The paper he brought home from school says that when he is 100 he is going to go to work, just like Daddy.  When Sweet Pea declared Mommy the "Prince" he came up and declared that, "Mommy no be prince.  You a girl!  I be the Prince!"

Don't discount who he is as a whole.  He will shock you!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Living with Autism

April is Autism Awareness month.  Recently new statics came out saying that 1 in 68 children have Autism and 1 in 42 boys have Autism.  Most likely you know someone with Autism and I think everyone is pretty "aware" of it.  However, I think it is greatly misunderstood.  I want to focus on Autism this month, on what it is and is not and how it affects our lives, etc. 

Living life with Autism is hard and unpredictable but also full of blessing and wonder. Here are some things I wish everyone knew about our lives with Autism.

1. Our child is on the spectrum

Little Man is higher functioning so he is on the upper end of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).  Just because he doesn't sit in a corner spinning plates all day does not mean that he was mis-diagnosed).  If you look at my child as a determination on whether you child is on the spectrum or not you will probably miss something.  Their are "classic" things that most children with Autism struggle with (socialization, communication, eating problems, sensory problems, etc) but each child will display those things differently.  We are constantly learning who he  and how ASD displays it's self in his life.

2. Little Man is SMART!  

 I love to watch people come to this realization.  He is a smart cookie.  He may struggle to verbalize.  He may not yet know his numbers and letters.  Those things do not determine how intelligent he is though.  His biggest strength is that he can look at all these different pieces and put together a bigger picture of something.  Unspoken things or things Tony and I speak "around" do not get past him.

3.  Our lives are a roller coaster ride

There is a reason Little Man's therapist ask how his week went.  Some days he is doing great, happy as a lark, talking well.  Other days he struggles to look at us, struggles to talk, lays around and mopes.  Some mornings he starts low but snaps out of it sometime in the day and does great.  And vise versa.  He can have an awful day at school and do exceptionally well at Awana.  We never know how he will handle something and he often shocks us (good or bad) making us very unprepared.

4.  We learn everything. 

Everything Little Man can is because he learned how to do it.  He had to be taught.  He plays imaginative games he learned from his sisters.  He knows how to lie because he watched others do it.  He can take turns in a board game because he was taught.  He builds pyramids when he builds with Legos because that's what mommy builds.  Every moment that he is in our care is a therapeutic moment in which we are teaching him something.  We don't just play memory match to have fun but we do it to teach turn taking, patience, communication, and enjoyment to be with others.  It's about the process, not about the game.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Getting Real: Worn

I woke up this morning tired, wishing I had read that alarm clock wrong.  After a relaxing Spring Break and fabulous Sunday with Daddy and some beautiful spring weather, the week had started out horrible.  We were going through life normally till I made a dreaded, torturous request: fold your laundry and put it away. 

This request was not new and the expectations were not high.  Simply make an attempt to "fold" your clothing and get it in the right draw.  We do it about once a week for the last 2 months.  However, I had not one but TWO children decide that this was NOT going to happen.  24 hours later one of those children finally finished.  The progress (besides the socks and undies that I had dealt with).  In fact they had spent much of that time yelling, hitting, and out right defying. 

I was past my limit.  The night before had proved that.  After joining in a screaming match with this child I grabbed the chips Tony had bought for himself at the store and sat on the floor bawling  The child went to bed early, with no more progress made. 

After a long morning I was thankful to leave three of the kiddos behind at school and get time to breathe.  I pulled into the driveway to hear Worn by Tenth Avenue North.  This song has been the cry of my heart for this child since Christmas 2012.  I can't heal their broken and hurting heart.  I can't fix them, as much as I want to.  I can't make they accept, love, let go.  I can't replace the rejection.

But I serve a God who can.  I serve God!  And I rest in that.  Because their is nothing else I can rest in.  And as I sat trying to hold back tears for Sweet Pea's sake, I soaked in those words again, crying out for this child, for our relationship.  The God who redeems, who heals, who answers prayer, loves this child more then I ever could.

    My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Getting Real: Seeking Help Part 2

You can read part 1 about our journey into the world of counseling here.

We as a family have seen a total of four different Counselors and three Therapist on a regular basis.*  We have had four specialty doctors, one of whom is regularly active in our kids lives.  We have had numerous other therapists and specialist in and out of our lives to help us.  One of our kids have been "specialized" with in the foster care system, which means, among other things, we see a caseworker once a week and a nurse once a month.

*Side Note: I say counselors for those who are helping our family emotionally and therapist for those who are helping our children physically.  That is the easiest way for us to distinguish it in our home.

All of that can be exhausting.  In and out of waiting room with 1 to 3 children to entertain.  Packed lunches and snacks.  Dealing with upset kids because I forgot the water bottles again.  Trying to communicate to each and every one of them what they need to know about that child.  Trying to remember what I have and have not told our caseworker and what paper work I still need to send her.

It gets lonely.  It gets tiring.  It's draining.  There is a lot of guilt associated with it.  From the forgotten water-bottles to lack of implementing a method I should have implemented this week to putting off the one on one counseling session so long that the Counselor doesn't even talk about it any more.

However, though all this I've found this surprising sweetness. Those moments when I get to stand beside another Momma as she talks about her child and the struggle they may be having. 

Oh those are so sweet.  To find a companion. For a brief moment to "get it" with her.  I might not know what goes into her every day but I do know its a great deal.  I know that she feels like she is holding on to her finger tips, fighting with every ounce of her strength for her child.  She has become a mini expert in crisis management, sensory input, speech skills.  And for a small amount of time we both get to see a life with no judgement of how we should be doing it, but rather with an unspoken word encouragement and support.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Living Life with Littles: Laundry

When we went from three to four with Our Guy laundry took a huge hit.  However, when we went to six I was shocked at how little of a hit our laundry took.  Maybe because the kids were so teeny tiny or maybe because everything was so overwhelming that laundry didn't quit seem as pertinent. However, as time has gone on it did become overwhelming. We've had to tweak and change our laundry routine to fit our family.  Here's how it goes.

1. Each bedroom has a big square laundry basket in it for dirty laundry. 

2. Each day one child must bring it down and another must sort it. They flip flop this job.  It took me awhile to teach them how to sort but they've got it now (for the most part).

3. I handle all washing and drying at this point.  Sometimes the kids will haul a load of laundry to a machine because they got an "energy drain" or just because they can be really sweet like that.

4. When a load is done I take it over to our folding area (a window seat in the dining room).  The kids maintain their color system that they have in their cups.  Each has a basket I bought at Wal-Mart (I believe it was $2.50) that I sort their clothing into.  We have another basket for Tony and my clothing and a third basket for sheets, towels, rags, etc.

5. When the baskets are full I declare family folding time.  We all grab our baskets, and dump them in the living room.  I typically fold Tony and my clothing and the sheets towels at this time.  When I get done I help the kids fold.  Yes, that means the kids clothing is not folded well at all.  This was really really hard for me to let go of.  Little Man's therapist really worked with me about saying "ok" to this for sanity sake.  I typically shut my eyes and don't think about it, uttering to myself "it's about the process, not the end result". 

6. Each child takes their basket and puts their own clothing away.

And that's what works for us.  How does your family manage laundry?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Getting Real: Seeking Help Part 1

It's a nasty word.  At least we often view it that way.  It goes against every grain of our American "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" thinking.  It means admitting we can't do it on our own.  It often takes hit to our pride.  It's a struggle to admit it's needed, especially around other Christians.  We often have this feeling that if we just........ (pray, love Jesus, suck it up, were fill in the blank) enough then we wouldn't need it.

The word is counseling.

noun: counselling; noun: counseling

the provision of assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties, esp. by a professional.

So I'm coming out to be real and say, my family needs and utilizes counseling, A LOT.  Every single member of this family, minus one, has gone through some sort of counseling in the last year and a 1/2.  Tony and I even do a form of it (even though we don't call it that, partially due to the reasoning listed above).  We meet with a couple once a month and talk.  We have a safe place and we share honest and hard feelings with them.  It's a good break from the kids and it's an even better way for us to process life.

It's hard to admit you need help, it's hard to admit you can't do it on your own.  However, I have seen so much improvement when we as the parents say, "I get it.  This is hard.  Let's find a way to help you talk about this."  My kids are processing feelings and emotions better.  Behaviors and attitudes are stabling out.  

We still have a long way to go on so many things we are all trying to process, but God is faithful and he has not abandoned us in this process.  We are no less loved because we "didn't love him enough to not be able to do this on our own."  He doesn't view us as less of his because "we didn't pray hard enough for all this hurt to go away."  (Yes, that was meant completely tongue-in-cheek.) He still values, loves and cherishes.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Getting Real: The Fish Bowl

When we were taking our PRIDE classes to get our Foster License we were told that we would be living in a fish bowl when it came to our parenting.  Everybody would be there to judge us.  We've seen the truth of that-caseworkers, people who go to church, teachers, family, etc.  We've even sat before a judge as lawyers questioned every aspect of it.

If this is true for foster parenting its three times as true for parenting a special needs child (including the lawyer part).  I have never felt so judged and attacked in my parenting as I have when it comes to Little Man.  You have those who view you as soft parents who let his behavior get out of control.  You have others who think you are too hard on him and his autism should be an excuse for his behavior.  You have others who think that if you just provided more positive reinforcement, high expectations, structure, etc then you he would do better.

We have two therapists, a caseworker, a nurse, teachers, social worker, counselor, and more working with him on a regular basis.  Everybody has an opinion, and few of those opinions take into consideration that I'm a momma to three other kids, two of them the same age as Little Man, two of them also high needs.  They don't consider that I'm trying to not drowned my marriage in all of this, and that my husband is my number 1 priority and no child will trump that.  They don't consider that my house hangs on the balance of falling to pieces at any moment and I can't allow that to happen (not with multiple people entering my home every week).

However, there are those people: therapists, friends, family, who cast no judgement and look at the situation in its entirety, whose suggestions are just that.  Many of those people have seen the tears roll down my cheeks, have listened to random rants that are sometimes angry and sometimes sad and sometimes a bit bitter.  They have listened for hours.  I'm beyond thankful for those people, they hold me up.

And then there is Tony.  What would I do without that man?  Not one week goes by that I don't tell him I feel like it's all my fault, it must be.  Not a week goes by that I don't scream at him as a result of someone elses behavior.  Not one week has gone by that something didn't get done for him because of something else that I had to do first.  But there he stands, beside me, leading this family.  I love that man and would have fallen to pieces without him.

I know I'm not alone in these feelings, I also know the opinions won't go away.  All of it is an aspect of raising a child with special needs.  Maybe I grow a thicker skin.  I hope not though.  I hope I learn to hear it but filter it through the truth of Christ first and his value of me, of my husband second and how he views me as a mother, and then those friends and families I treasure who have seen our lives in many different aspects.

If you want an amazing special needs blog post check out this one by Kate at Apply Pie, Anyone? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Picture Perfect: Winter

It has been one very snowy, VERY cold winter.  I'm not a big fan of winter, so to say I'm over this winter is a complete understatement.  Bring on the heat of summer (and the shorts, dresses, pool, and so many other wonderful things).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Getting Real: Praying Changes Hearts

One of our kids is a bit harder for us to raise then our other three.  We are on a constant roller coaster of emotions and behaviors with this child.  We have a week or two of good, followed by a week or two of ok, followed by a week or two of horrible, and on the cycle goes.

Recently, we found ourselves at the bottom of one of those cycles.  I was sitting in my room racking my brain to come up with ideas on what in the world to do.  Should we do time outs?  Are we missing something in our Love and Logic steps?  What will get the message across?  Does this child need more attention or less?  How do I keep my other kids safe?  And in all that racking and thinking and planning I completely left out God.

Not once during this cycle had I sat down to truly focus on God and what he would want me to do with child.  Everything was me and my answer.  Everything was by my own power and not the power that God had placed right in me, the Holy Spirit.

Tony and I have committed to taking a certain amount of time to pray specifically for this child and the issues we are having.  Is is helping?  I would say we are swinging up on that cycle but I haven't seen a HUGE impact on the behavior.  However, I have changed.  I have found that my prayers are for this child in particular, they are for my relationship with them.  I pray that I would find and seek out time to connect, that I would love deeply despite the behavior, that I would sit down in their mess and show them I'm not going anywhere.

Prayer changes things.  It's not necessarily in the way we think.  It may not change that person or that situation but it helps the person praying to align their heart with God and seek His will in what they would do.