Monday, March 30, 2015

Adoption: Renaming Our Children Part 3

Now the fun part.  I get to tell you the meaning behind all our children's names.  I wish I could actually share their names, but for their protection we've chosen not to do that.

Big Brother:

Big Brother's name means steadfast.  We desire for Big Brother to gain a confident heart.  We desire to learn that he is loved, desired.  We want him to remain strong in these things.  He has a lot of history  to overcome, a lot of bad cycles to break.  Our prayer for his life is that he would remain steadfast in who God created him to be.

Sweet Pea:

The first part of her name means "my witness" in Hebrew.  We chose to give her a strong name.  Our prayer is that for her life is that she will be a "world changer" and a "voice for the voiceless".  It's been amazing to see the gifts of both compassion and justice that God has put in her.  She has this way of drawing people to herself.  She is a leader to her core.  But she is also a justice seeker, often speaking up for the injustice of those around her (and herself at times).

Little Man:

Labelled non-verbal in our placement call, speaking is NOT this child's strong suit.  However, whether it's through words, actions, or just how he lives his life we desire this child to be a voice for God.  We named him after a prophet with a name that means mouth piece of God, or more specifically, "Who is God?"  May each hurdle this child overcome be a reflection of who God is and how he works!

Baby Girl:

Full of beauty, grace.  We stuck two names (with very specific meanings) together to create this child's name.  Scared and worthless was how this child's life made her feel.  She often degraded herself and struggled to accept any compliment, especially if she was told she was beautiful.  We wanted a reminder for her that she is indeed beautiful, especially in God's sight.  God's never ending grace is what we felt deeply as we have learned to care for this child.  We struggle, but God's grace overcomes our struggle in so many ways.  As God's beautiful, redemptive, grace poors into this child's life we get to see miraculous changes take place.

I would love to hear your story behind your child's name!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Getting Real: Standing At a Cross Roads.

Our first morning as a family of six.
Do you ever have those moments where you stand at a cross roads? A moment that changes what everything from here on out will be like? Holding your child for the first time, moving across the country for a new job, or walking across the stage for graduation. I feel like we are standing at one of those moments right now.

Recently, we made a decision that brought both sadness and relief in one fell swoop. We choose to surrender our Foster Care License. This means, that by our own free will we choose to give up the license that allows us to be foster parents. The license we took nine weeks of classes for. The license we did physical, background checks, and piles of paperwork for. The license that brought four children through our doors, three forever. 

So much of me feels like we have abandoned a community that we have come to deeply love and appreciate. Foster parents are some of the most incredible people I know.  I feel like we've turned our back on a community of children that desperately need people to love them. I feel like we are "giving up". 

I do know though that our hearts are still in the foster care world. We have been forever affected and changed by the last three plus years. These kids need a voice.  People need to hear their stories.  These parents need support and love. And there needs to be more done to keep these families together before it ever escalates to foster care. Once they reach that point it is hard for families to go back

We hope that God will allow us to speak up and speak out for these kids, these families. We hope God will allow us to come along beside them before it's too late. We hope that our time in foster care is not over, just different. What that looks like? We really don't know. Tony recently told a friend, "I feel like we are standing at a cross roads. We know we have to get somewhere. We know we have a deadline. We just don't know where we are going or how to get there." 

For now we wait. I've seen over and over and over again that the wait is hard, the wait is tiring. However, God always works in the wait. He always prepares, guides, and teaches. As much as I dislike the wait, it's what we need for what He has prepared on the other side.

Are we done having children, our family is "complete"? We don't know, we are open to adoption in the future. Will we foster again some day? Maybe, but we know it will be a long enough wait that it's not worth keeping out license open. This decision is NOT because our hands are "full".  This is because it is what is best for our family overall.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Adoption: Renaming Our Children Pt. 2

If you missed the why behind the decision to rename our children through adoption you can check it out here.

When we presented the idea of giving our kids new names to they were 7, 4, and 4.  We weren't changing an infant's name who never really knew their birth name.  I will say though, that our twins came in to our care with nicknames (naming your child one thing and then giving them a nickname is pretty common in the black community).  Because of this, they actually did not even really know their birth names until they were almost three.  However, their birth names had been used since the moment they walked into our homes-about a year and a half.

Before I get into how we did this I want to make a few things clear. 1. We do believe this is Biblical so we entered into this decision and change with a LOT of prayer!  This success of this is completely a God thing.  2. When Tony and I discussed renaming children we agreed that if that came with push back or a sense of defiance we would drop it.  We did not want to create a bitter child because we forced this on them.  We did this with our children's full agreement and excitement. 3. We did choose to move the children's birth names to their middle names so that if they ever want to go by their birth names, it will legally be pretty simple to do that.

So, here is what we did:

Prayer!!!: I can not emphasis this enough.  Pray, pray, pray, pray.  We discussed and prayed specifically about this issue for a good year before we presented it to our kids.  The success of this is completely a God thing.  He worked in their hearts and prepared the way.  We prayed over our kids, their new names, and the decision in general.  And God confirmed our choice with the response our kids gave.

Biblical Study: I will go over this more in part four.  A few months after the dust settled from termination we began studying God changing names in the Bible and the why behind that change during our family devotions.  Our kids did not know that we hoped to change their names before we got into this study. We took each character and addressed three things behind that name change: 1. God was making a clear distinction from their past, 2. he was giving them a new hope and future, 3. it was a reminder of the promises he was making to them, and 4. it was a promise of his love for them.  Our plan was to finish up this study talking about when a child is born and the gift they give them in a name.  However, before we even got to that point two of our three children were asking if they were getting new names (see....GOD THING!)

Choice: Kids thrive under choice.  And as parents we need to balance giving them choice while still maintaining our position as the parent.  We decided to give Big Brother a choice of names.  We presented him with two options that we liked.  He came up with a third.  While we listened to him and his reasoning on this we ultimately decided that his choice was not one we were comfortable with.  (He wanted to do a shortened version of his former last name.)  We told him that if he had another idea we would be happy to consider it.  Ultimately he chose one of the two names.

Slow introduction: Once our kids fully accepted that they were getting new names we slowly started to introduce those names.  All of us needed to get used to them.  First, we started using them at bed time and then intentionally throughout our day.  One day Tony declared it was the day and he and I make the full switch into their birth names (about three months after we first introduced them to the names).  When first doing their names we made sure we ALWAYS used it in a positive manner.  We NEVER used it to discipline them.  We wanted to make sure that their first associations were good associations.  So a quick: "I love you...."

Any questions for how we renamed?  Feel free to leave a comment and I will try to address those the best I can.  Have a story behind your choice to rename you child or not rename your child?  I would love to hear it, each family's choice is so beautiful.  Plan to adopt in the future?  Have you put any thought to this issue?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Getting Real: Her Loss, My Joy

This blog post was orginally written just after we went through TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) with our kids (October 2013) and saved for a more appropriate time to share.  It was written at a time when we were getting many "congratulations" and "oh that's great" from people.  Yet, our hearts and our children's hearts where still very broken over what had just taken place.

The questions began flowing from her mouth....

"Will the kids keep their names?"  "Can you send me Little Man's braids?" 

She knew what was coming.  That today would be the day that she lost the rights to her children.

A little over an hour later I saw her sit on the stand, tears rolling down her face, declaring her love for her children.  As a mother my heart was ripped in two.  I could only begin to imagine knowing that soon you were going to be told that you were loosing all rights to your children. Never to see them again, never to talk to them again.  Just gone.

That day she was handed her greatest loss.  She was told she would not get to hear her children say "Mommy" as they clamored onto her lap.  She won't see her kids excitement as they tie their shoes for the first time.  She won't giggle with them as she tickles their toes.  She won't hold them when they cry.  She won't sit in the ER for the first stitches or cheer as they round the plate to home for the first time. 

Her greatest loss brings one of my greatest joy.

I will get to be the one to hear the "mommy"'s and have kids climbing on my lap.  I get all the laughs, the giggles, the secret whispers, and the cries.  There is so much of me that is filled with joy because of this.  However, there is also a sadness and pain.  I never want to forget those moments, as hard as they were to go through.  I never want to forget the joy that was born out of deep loss.  I never want to take for granted what it cost for me to be their mommy.

And if there is one thing I want my children to forever know about their birth mother, it is that she deeply loves them!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Adoption: Renaming Our Children Pt. 1

If you know us in real life then you know that when we adopted our children we choose to legally change not only their last name, but also their first names.  Those who know us only through blog world would not have realized that because we still code our kiddos names or open social medias and networks.  Questions about the why and how behind the name change is one I get in the foster care community a lot.

If you pay any attention to foster and adoption blogs you will find that the choice to change a child's name is both very personal and very individual.  Our choice is not the right one for every situation or every child.  I love learning why a family makes the choice they do because it shows so much of their heart.  I'm also baffled by the lack of support for families who do choose to change their child's name.  We have experienced everything from annoyance to confusion to being lectured about our decision, and usually these responses are outside the foster/adoption community.

The WHY behind our decision has a lot of different layers:

A Past History and Fresh Start:
Our kids come with a lengthy and complicated history.  Their names are part of that.  One of our children was named after his birth father, anothers middle name was after a different relative.  When their birth names are spoken their is a strong tie to their past.  We wanted to in a way, cut that tie and give them a fresh start with a new name.

A Gift:
Do you have biological children?  When you delivered those children in the hospital and the doctor handed you them for the first time he/she did not declare, "It's a boy and his name is Fred."  You got the privilege and honor to choose a name for you child.  People chose names for many reasons: they like it, the child is named after a family member, it's Biblical, or they are going for a certain meaning.  When a child is born one of the first gifts a parent gives is that child's name.  It will stay with them their entire lives.  We wanted to do the same thing for our kids.  In our case we searched for names with a certain meaning behind them.  Something we could speak over them for the rest of their lives.

When you foster a child you interact with their birth parents quit a bit.  As much as you try to keep your lives private  much of it is exposed to them.  They will most likely know your last name.  They will probably know the town you live in.  They may know where you work, where you kids attend school, or even your address.  Changing a child's name gives you a bit of distance between all of that.  It also protects your children long term.  I have heard on multiple occasions where a birth parent uses a child's name to obtain debt for a house or credit card.  

A Biblical Perspective:
Tony and I are firm believers that renaming your child when adopted is Biblical.  God renamed several people.  When you study that process you see a pattern to his choice of renaming.  God always does it as a way to make a bold statement that their past lives are ending.  They are getting a new and fresh start.  He does it in order to remind them of the promises that he has made to them.  And he does it remind them of his deep love for them.  He always does it as a blessing and a gift.  I'm going to talk at a later date about the Biblical Characters we focused on and why.

This is the WHY behind our choice for a name change.  Again, each family will make a different choice based on their family and their child's needs.  I respect and appreciate the thought and prayer these families put behind their decision.

Are you an adoptive or foster family?  Did you choose to change your child's name?  Why or why not?  What do you think of that decision now?  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hard Places and Feelings: Control

What it looks like?

Control doesn't seem like a "feeling" but I feel it is.  The need to be in control seeps into many different facets of our children's lives.  It stems from living a life where bad things happened that they couldn't control.  I find that for my kids I can link bossiness, defiance, lying/cheating, and disrespect (this may be for people or things) to the need to control.  I've heard other parents talk about food and cleanliness as issues that come with control.

Let me give you examples of how this can manifest itself in each behavior and explain how control takes over the issue:

Bossiness: One of my kiddos is extra bossy, to the point of controlling. It's not just a child trying to tell their siblings what to do.  It is a need to be in control of their siblings (or of the parents-if allowed). It stems from a lack of trust in former caregivers.  These kids are often left in charge of younger siblings or themselves so they tend to develope "take charge" personalities to the point of being unhealthy.  Within my own children's birth sibling relationships (and I've heard other parents say the same thing) we often see one child dominate another to point of overstepping a parents authority.

Defiance: A parent's request to have a child complete a certian task can be immediately met with an "I don't think so" attitude from the child.  It's almost a knee jerk reaction for the child.  They so need to be in control that their defences are constantly up.

Lying/Cheating:  This is a behavior in and of it's self but a need to control every aspect of their world can send a child down a very bad path.  For one of my kiddos they need to be so in control of the outcome of a game that they must cheat to win.  It's gotten to the point that this child's grandparents don't even enjoy playing games with them. 

Disrespect:  This can be shown in how they treat others (typically through the things listed above).  However, we also see it in how they treat their things.  Some parents see a child who holds on to their things way to tightly as a need to control.  My children show a lack of respect for things.  It's easier to pretend you don't care about something because it won't hurt as bad when you loose it.

How to uncover control?

For us, this is pretty simple to do in our children.  It's taking typical kid behavior (like bossiness) to the extreme as a protection measure.

How does this relate to me?

Everybody has some level for a need to control their lives.  Nobody likes to feel out of control.  As a parent this means that I need to figure out how to share control with my children.  That can be very hard to do.  For me, it has been a learning curve.  I always thought that if I told my child to do something, they had better do it.  I'm learning the my children need two things: 1. LOTS of choices in daily life, 2. The ability to compromise.

Choices.  My kids do so much better with choices.  I've learned through Karyn Purvis that when a child is given choices it needs to be two positive choices that you are ok living with.  In other words a choice between obeying or getting a consequecing is NOT a good choice.  We have found we can give our kids lots of choices in daily life: a blue shirt or orange, cereal or toast, milk or water, an apple or an orange.  The more choices we give the more our kids feel in control of their lives.

Compromises.  This was a hard parenting change we made (again Karyn Purvis) but one of the best to affect behavior.  Our kids know that if they don't like a choice they can ask for a compromise if they do it with respect.  Sometimes we say no but we try to compromise when we can.  (An example: I ask a child to put down a toy and come to dinner.  A compromise they could ask for...or I could offer if we see a resistance to that they can play for three more minutes.  After three minutes they must get up with a good attitude, put them toy away, and come to dinner.)

When we learn to let go of our control in little areas and let our children have a bit of control, our children learn to share control in bigger areas.  They learn to trust us with those items and the battle grounds become fewer.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Memories from Hard Places

I will never forget that moment.  It was one of those, stick in your mind, never let go of moments.  I was in the sixth grade, finishing up my Saturday morning paper route delivery.  I was at the very end of my route when I suddenly smelled it----bacon. The rich wonderful smell of bacon cooking.  Suddenly I was transported back to my grandparents house.  The early morning hours of my grandmother, a long time farm wife, cooking bacon at the stove.  Her back to me as I hear the creak of the brown chairs.  That sound, that smell, those chairs.  They never leave my memory.  In an instant I am suddenly remember every creak, the feel of the ramp as we ran around on barefeet. The way the swing swung higher with a cousin on each side. The squeak and them slam as someone opened the back door.  The smell of every room.  The feel as if on treasure hunt in the rarely slept in upstairs.  The mustiness of the basement.  The mystery of the laundry room that I never stepped foot in.  Grandpa's woodworking area, the shag green carpet in his office, watching him put more wood in the wood heated furnace. 

One sniff of bacon brought every sight and sound of that glorious place back.  In an instant it was all transformed.

Memories are powerful.  Little things in our senses like a simple sound or a simple sound can send us hurtling back.  For many of us it's to good memories and wonderful moments.  They make us smile and we soak up the warm feelings for a split second.

For kids from hard places simple things can send them back into a horrible past and horrible situation.  Suddenly they leave their peaceful setting and are thrown into chaos.  The item that sends them hurtling back can be so little and so unexplainable. 

For parents of these kids this can be nightmarish.  We have no clue what set them off or why.  Its completely unpredictable.  One minute or one day they are fine and the next their world is coming to pieces, and in turn so is ours.  Memories can be glorious and terrifying.  Unfortunately for our children who don't process or communicate well it often leaves them in their own world, afraid and unsure of how to cope.

If you have not seen this short movie--Removed-- you must!  It is about 12 minutes long.  It is absoultely the best done vidoe to describe these kids lives.  It's completely accurate.  Each child's story is different, but the common threads are so well displayed in this vidoe.  I struggle to watch it because I struggle not to cry through it.  PLEASE (I beg, plead, demand--if you'll let me) watch this video.  At the end the little girl recieves a dress.  It's a MUST watch moment.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Getting Real: Kids in Sports

Of all the Getting Real blog post I've written this one is sure to be the most controversial.  It is definitely a hot button topic among families, especially families in the Church.  I'm simply going to present our families view and why we believe it. 

A dad and I were chatting about sports.  He was sharing the sports his child was in and I was sharing the sports our kiddos were in (or lack there of-at the time).  "But aren't you afraid they will be behind."

My six year old, unathletic sports.  Nope, that really wasn't a concern of mine at the time.  The fact that my 3 year old daughter knew ballet moves because of all the books she had read, but had never downed a leotard.  Not my biggest problem. 

Tony and I have a few things we discuss when it comes to our kids extracurriculars.  We are very particular and because of that our kids do not participate in much.  Here's our list:
  • Is is age appropriate?  Are they doing stuff in the sport that we do not find safe for our child? (IE pushing 3 grade wrestlers to drop a pound in a half an hour in order to drop a weight class or practicing in full pads...again 3rd grade...for football in the middle of the hot, humid summer.)
  • How much of our families time is it going to consume?  How much of our child's time does it consume?
  • Does the event take place on a Sunday or a Wednesday night?
  • How costly is it not only for our child to participate but also for our family to attend? (Events around here can run up to $6 per person to attend, that is $30 for our family to watch each event.)
Wrestling, girl scouts, boy scouts, football and dance have all been said no to because of our standards for our family.  Some of those things we would love to do in the future (ie we really would like our girls to be able to take a dance class) but at the time we needed to say no.

We are not anti sports.  In fact we love, love, love watching our kids compete.  We love what kids learn from sports.  We love that in Tball this last summer our kids giggled, were encouraged, were pushed, learned to work with and cheer on a team. 

However, we hold church and our family worshiping together in the highest regard.  We hold our time at home together as a family in the highest regard.  We respect our children's young developing bodies and refuse to allow them, at this age, the stress that some of these sports allow. 

We are finding our commitment to this is growing harder.  Sweet Pea was devastated when "all" of her best friends did girl scouts and she couldn't.  The peewee football coach was not happy when he came to see if Big Brother would be playing football this summer (yes, he's THAT big) and we informed him that he would not be.  Our kids are most likely not going to play professionally, and if they do them starting in junior high in football is not going to put them behind.  We are choosing to hold on to the moments we have with them. now.  As hard as that is for our kids, we know that our families daily health is better for our choices.

Monday, February 9, 2015

"Dear Friend": From a Foster Mom's Heart

"Dear Friend" was originally posted on April 3, 2013. 

Dear Friend,

So you got to see my child in all of her glory today.  I know it's not the side of herself she usually lets you see, but it is a reality of everyday life for her.  Like every human out there, she has good moments and bad moments, pleasant moments and moments we would like to never remember again.

I just wanted to let you know that my child is not a heathen, hellan, devil child, or rotten brat.  Rather she is a deeply hurt little girl whose emotions bubble over.  She has been through things you couldn't even imagine, let alone begin to process.

My little girl is three.  She isn't always good at saying that she feels mad or sad, but hey, neither am I.  She is trying to cope with the topsy turvy world she faces the best her little three year old self knows how.

Many times you see a put together, sweet, smiling, little angel of a child.  I hate to tell you, but most days that is not the heart of the little girl that stands before you.  Rather there is a deep sadness and confussion in this child.

But today was different. Today she chose to let her gaurd down and allow her emotions to break free.  She broke out of her fake world for just a little bit to show you some of her heart.  I know it was hard for you to see her that way, but please refrain from passing judgement on her.

Until you have stood in her shoes you will never understand the depth of pain she has experienced.  Those shoes are so much smaller then yours or mine, but they have walked more miles of hurt then either of us cares to even imagine.

So next time you see my child screaming in the corner, banging on a window, take some time to stop.  Get down on her level, look in her eyes.  Think for just a minute what her world is like.  And before you offer up unkind and unhelpful words, see if you can see beyond the fit and into her heart.

A Foster Momma

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hard Places and Feelings: Anger

What anger looks like?

Anger. It is the number one emotion my kids show.  It is often shown to cover up feelings of sadness or disappointment. Anger means that someone else is at fault.  It tends to be an "easy" feeling to feel.  It often looks just like you think it would: temper tantrums, screaming, hitting.  At times anger can go all the way to extreme of raging.

Anger can be a dangerous feeling, it allows the child to get out of control and often justifies bad behavior.  For kids from hard places anger is often misdirected.  For my kiddos anger at a birth parent is often placed on us, the adoptive parents.  And of the two of us, mom gets the brunt of most of the anger.  Mothers are suppose to be loving and nurturing and when a mother fails at  task its devastating.  Being angry at the person who deserves it is usually too hard for these kiddos to handle.  Instead they find the easy target--the foster or adoptive mother. 

How to uncover anger?

Anger is easy to spot because it has such a bold outward appearance.  However, we have found that pointing out to our kiddos that they seem angry goes a long way in easing the feeling.  We often tell our kids, "I see your eyebrows are furrowed and your fists are clenched.  You seem angry.  Let's talk about that."  When a kiddo has their feeling recognized and acknowledge they are better able to handle it appropriately.  It also helps them to pause and think, "Oh yeah, I AM feeling angry."

How does this relate to me?


Unfortunately, like my kids, this is my go-to feeling.  I often find my anger bubbling over and my voice rising in frustration.  For me, anger tends to be a generational problem.  I've seen this in myself and in all of my kiddos (including Sweet Pea).  While I am working with my kiddos on their feelings, I am also acknowledging my own need to work on anger. 

I have learned to put a few strategies into place to help.  First, I wear a bracelet on my arm.  It reminds me to take a deep breathe and pray for my feelings and my kiddos feelings.  Second, when I feel my frustration rising I try to sit back and ask myself two things: 1. What is truly causing my frustration? and 2. Is it justified?.  Third, I try to whisper instead of yell.  It's amazing how a whisper can calm me and make my child's ears perk up. 

Even with all these strategies I am still a work in progress.  I do a lot of apologizing and explaining why I was angry to my kids.  When  I can show them healthy ways of fixing the mistakes anger makes, it helps them to better cope with the feelings themselves.

Read More:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Getting Real: The Crushing Reality of Lost Dreams

This blog post was written somewhere in the Spring of 2013 and saved for a more appropriate time.  We knew that chances where we would be allowed to adopt the kids.  However, in the midst of weekly visits and the hope of court our kids hearts where not geared toward adoption.

Yesterday I sat in a court room and heard the word "termination" spoken.  We were given a 3 month court date meaning that they are moving towards that.  I watched as BioMom ran her hands through her hair, exasperated.

I came home that night and had my little boy look at me with hope filled eyes and ask, "Did the judge say I could go home?"

"No buddy.  He didn't.  It's not safe at home yet."

Adoption, it's born out of such pain and heartache.  And yet I sit here filled with excitement.  It's like a teeter-totter of emotions.

God has shown us time and time again that these kids where suppose to be in our home.  He reaffirms it in big ways constantly.  I've given up with the "Are you sure God?" because I know he is.  And it excites me that there is a possibility that they will be forever MINE.  It's an amazing feeling.  It's blessing and gift I don't deserve.

However, in that seat sat a mom that deeply loves her children.  She has a desire to be a good mom to them but doesn't have the ability to provide them the home they deserve.  It's heartbreaking.  But I'm also angry at her.  Why didn't she fight for her kids?

And at my kitchen table sits a little boy who would go back to a world that isn't safe in order to be with his parents.  A little boy that longs to go "home".  And some day I'm going to have to look him in those hope filled eyes and crush his dream.

Now, almost two years later and adoption complete I would love to say my children's hearts are completely "sold out" to adoption.  While my children love that they are adopted and have accepted us as parents there is still a part of them that wishes they could go home.  Adoption does not replace desire.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Parenting: Catch Phrases

It seems like parenting has a lot of split second decisions to it.  We are constantly reading our kids behavior to determine is it irresponsible, based on another emotion, or definant or is this their true need or is something else really affecting it. Then there are those times that your kid completely stumps you.

Tony and I have discovered we are very emotional parents.  We tend to reacted with emotions rather then a level head.  This can create a lot of unfairness and disciplines that do not fit the situations. In order to help with this we have learned that we love go-to phrases in our parenting.  These are lines that we can always come back to in helping us with our parenting choices.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Are you asking or are you telling? I have found that sometimes my kids can get very demanding, expecting me to do something.  This typically comes off of very disrespectful.  This simple question either quickly changes to tone to respect or allows a teaching moment of, "If you are telling the answer will always be no. However, you could try that again with asking words."  (Karyn Purvis, Empowered to Connect)

We need to try that agian with respect. As my kids get older I find their tones get a bit more on the disrespect side.  What they are saying is not always bad, but how they are saying it is not ok.  This allows a quick check for them with out completely shutting them off. (Karyn Purvis, Empowered to Connect)

Listen and Obey! This is a quick phrase I can give to my kids.  It serves as a warning and I believe ques their brain (which they need at times).  It also allows Tony and I to know, that if they chose to ignore words after this is given then we are dealing with a defiance issue and not a brain issue. (Karyn Purvis, Empowered to Connect)

Oh my. What a sad choice.  What are you going to do about that? When I discovered that they took markers and drew all over the wall or got into something on the counter that was off limits this allows me to keep my frustration level even.  It also allows them to be both responsible and in control of the mess they've made.  I'm amazed at how much better their attitude is about the problem when I put the ball in their court rather then demand that they fix it (side note: I do expect them to fix the problem)(Love and Logic)

Asked and Answered. There was a great article that was floating around social media sometime this past year.  When a child asks for something, I give them an answer (side note: I need to own my answer and be careful about my "no's".  This is something very hard for me.) If them come up with a "but mom...." I simply say "asked and answered." I then stick with it.  Sometimes my kids will ask for a compromise (another learning curb for myself) and I try hard to accommodate. 

Do (or did) you have any catch phrases as a parent that you loved?  Did you feel it helped to minimize frustration and increase cooperation?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hard Places and Feelings: Sadness

I'm going to start a new series entitled Hard Places and Feelings.  Every other Thursday I will look at a different feeling or struggle that kids from Hard Places face.  I recently have been bombarded with how "normal" our "unnormal" has become.  I make a matter of fact statement about a tough feeling our kiddo is experiencing and the reply is shock.  However, I've also become very aware that the way I deal with my feelings and emotions is not always much better then the way my kids do.  However, my kids are feeling their feelings more often, more severely, and much quicker then I am. 

What does sadness look like?

Sadness is a feeling that kids from hard places feel a lot.  It is probably my kids number 1 feeling.  However, it is often the last feeling they will show.  They hate the feeling of sadness.  It overwhelms them and they suddenly feel out of control.  Control is something kids from hard places desperately need to feel.  There were too many things in their lives they couldn't control.  (Control itself is really a topic for another day).

Instead of sadness we see so many other feelings: disobedience, anger, control, extreme hyberness, goofiness.  Sometimes these emotions come out at really odd times and the feelings seem to be really inappropriate (ie laughing when someone gets hurt).  Many times other emotions are used to mask sadness and often looks nothing like sadness.

How do we uncover sadness?

We have found that it takes us a long time to get to the root of our kiddo's feelings when sadness is involved.  Typically they revert back to the feeling they are showing and want to feel rather then the feeling they are actually feeling.  When a person feels another feeling such as anger, it is typically someone elses problem to deal with (ie the person and thing they are angry at).  However, when a person feels sadness that is problem they must deal with inside their own hearts.  It takes a lot of more work to deal with sadness.  

After 2 1/2 years with our kids we are getting much better at knowing when they are truely sad and not truely angry.  But it is still a lot of work.  Sometimes we are able to say, "you say your angry but what your telling me sounds very sad."  It is a huge victory when our kids are able to get directly to "I feel sad."  Sometimes it takes days and weeks to get to the root, other times it doesn't happen at all.  No matter how long it takes, we typically don't see an improvement in behavior until the true emotion is reached.

How does this relate to me?

I have discovered that as an adult, sad is still hard to feel.  It's gut wrenching.  Recently, something tragic happened in our extended family, stop you in your tracks and change your whole life, tragic.  As Tony walked out of the house to be with family members and I put the kids in front of a movie I chose to do one thing--housework.  I needed, at least temporarily, to not focus on sad.  I felt like if I did the emotion would sweep me over and carry me away.  

Our kids need to see us sad.  They need to see us cry.  They need to hear why we're sad.  They need to see us holding each other or journaling when we feel this way in order to model healthy coping skills.  They need to hear, "I felt so sad when my flowers died because they weren't watered enough."  And if we mask our feelings, they need to see us come back and explain to them what really happened ("I acted really angry when I saw you broke my plate and I yelled at you.  Really I was sad because that was my favorite plate.")  As we show our kids that sad can be felt in a good way they will feel more safe to feel it themselves.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Getting Real: Why Adoption from Foster Care Matters

We were having a conversation about foster care and adoption with a group when this statement was made...

"Yes, but it really adoption really doesn't change that much does it?"

Adoption from foster care changes everything and nothing all at the same time.

In some ways nothing has changed from January 4th to January 5th.  The kids go to the same school, sleep in the same beds, our daily routines and rules all stay the same.  In our every day lives-nothing has changed.

However, at the same time everything has changed.

Legally: Now our kids are considered ours, not the states.  We make the daily decisions for what doctors to go to, if their faces can be shown on social media, and whether they can travel out of state.  They are now legally eligible to be on Tony's insurance, rather then state insurance.  We can call them legally a Snyder.  We are able to choose how to discipline, whether they need a dresser or not, and what water tempature we can bathe them in.  We make all medical, school, and financial decisions.  We no longer have to send school reports to a caseworker (or have her visit on a weekly bases) or figure out what to do about our child's picture in the paper.  It seems like a million and one ways that our lives have changed legally.

Identity: "Mr. Snyder, your mom is here." were the words that came out of the teachers mouth on the 5th.  Snyder. Our kids have received a new identity.  They are officially Snyder's.  When I married Tony I still felt like a Grey.  However, while there was still Grey in me, I legally belonged to the Snyder family.  When I walk into my in-laws house I am one of them, permentantly.  When someone calls my name, that is the family they associate me with.  My kids are the same way.  It's a new identity.  A sense of belonging.

Permancy:  The world between birth family right's being terminatied and adoption happening is like no man's land.  A child has lost their ties to the past. The kids legally become orphaned, with no parents.  They feel that loss.  On adoption day they are told they are offically part of something new.  They are no longer floating around like "a man without a country."  They have a permant place they belong.  There is no threat that they will ever be taken away.

Security: After termination we were going through a rough time with one of our kiddos.  I looked at a fellow mom who had adopted from foster care and said, "You know I don't have to keep this child.  They aren't legally mine. I CAN ask for them to be moved."  All she said was, "Yes you can."  It was so good for my heart and yet so challenging.  In those days, weeks, and months that Tony and I spent hours going "what are we going to do about this child."  We secured in our heart that they are ours.  As much as the challenges they are going through suck, they are ours.  It is our job to walk thro
ugh the hard with them.  It cemented our commitment to them.

Spiritually:  Adoption is a Biblical issue.  Adoption hits on God's heart.  Romans 8:5 states, "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'"  That is the heart of adoption.  It makes a permanent, unbreakable bound, just as salvation does for believers.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Goals for 2015

We are well over a week into 2015 (oh my) but I haven't had a chance to share my goals for this year yet.

  • Make lunch for Tony 3 times a week. (My choice)
  • Stay of top of cutting Tony's hair. (My choice)
  • Stay of top of keep Tony's work clothes clean and ironed. (His choice)
  • Transition kids into adoption mode
  • Get each family member the appointments they need
  • Pay off set amount of debt.
  • Keep checkbook and bills up to date (including scanning items into the computer)
  • Loose the last 10-20 lbs to hit goal weight.
  • Stick to Trim Healthy Mama.
  • Exercise 3-4 times a week with Fit 2 Be.
  • Work on anger and negativity through focused prayer and gratitude journal.
  • Prioritize my prayer time each day.
  • Memorize scripture (Beginning with Ephesians 4:1-6, Ephesians 3:14-19, and Philippians 2:14-15)
  • Tony and I take a trip to Ireland this summer.
  • Camp more then 1 time this year.
  • Get and train a dog.
  • Figure out a plan for stream lining life in the kitchen and implementing it (starting with regular meal planning and meal prep).
There you have it.  My goals for the year.  We are still trying to figure out how to implement and fulfill some of these (such as kitchen/meal work and how to stay on top of Tony's things). Others we are already in the works of completing (such as purchasing plane tickets to Ireland and transitioning the kids medically).  I'm excited to see where God takes our family to at the end of the year.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Picture Perfect: Adoption Day

We had so much fun on our adoption day.  We started our day off at a local bakery down the street from the court house. It was fun to have everyone join us.

We were quit the crazy bunch waiting outside the court room. Six kids (two of whom were out of control hyper) and eleven adults.

It was such a fun moment when the judge said, "I grant you your adoption petition, congratulations!" and all our family cheered.

We were so thankful to be surrounded by family on our day. We treasure them and how they have accepted and loved on our children.

On the far left is our kids GAL. Brenda had our case since the very beginning. In the past new GAL's were assigned for the adoption case but a recent change is allowing the GAL's to also participate in the adoption. This was such a sweet surprise to us. Next is our adoption worker who got to handle piles upon piles of official caseworkers.  Our caseworker in standing next to her.  She has worked with our kids for over a year and we are thankful for the many hours of work she put in.  Our lawyer is standing next to Tony. He's a great guy and we were thankful to have him next to us that day.  Also, our judge in the background is incredible.  So much rests upon your judge and we are blessed to have such an incredible one in this county.

Thankful to be officially and forever FAMILY!

P.S. Yes, Big Brother is only 8 and YES he is huge for his age.

Monday, January 5, 2015


We are excited to introduce you to all four of our amazing blessings...

 Big Brother
Our creative, goofy 8 year old.  This kid loves math and art.  He's got a sweet heart that desires to please.  Never in the big brother role before our home, he is working hard to learn what it means.  He loves to play board games and is getting interested in all things sports.

Sweet Pea
This girl is five.  She has got an incredibly tenderhearted.  She is constantly looking for ways to serve others.  She is obsessed with all things writing and is enjoying learning how to read.  She wants to be a momma when she grows up and loves practicing her skills.

Little Man:
Silly, silly, silly is how you describe this five year old.  He loves his order and structure but is always seeking a way to make others laugh.  He loves to be a helper and you often find him right by mom or dad's side working.  He always has a book in his hands.

 Baby Girl
This five year old has earned her nickname of Jumping Bean.  She is very analytical and calculating.  She is so proud of herself when she learns a new skill.  If there is music, she is dancing.  If there is a book being read, she is listening.   

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Year in Review

The three words I would use to describe this past year are growth, stability, and waiting.  Our children have grown, not just physically, but in how they socialize, in what they've learned, in how they deal with their feelings (to name a few).  Tony and I have grown as parents and in our relationship with each other.  And Tony has grown in his job.  It was a stable year.  After several years of BIG changes this one did not hold many.  We had a few things end that helped to stabilize our family (Awana and Tony's School.  We also enjoyed a few changes but still maintained a very stable every day life.  And we waited, and waited, and waited for our adoption.


I celebrated my 26th birthday


We welcomed a new nephew into our family.



Tony celebrated his 26th birthday.


We enjoyed a camping trip to a local camp grounds.
Big Brother and Sweet Pea began t-ball.


Tony graduated.

We celebrated 6 years of marriage.

Swim Lessons for the kids.


Sweet Pea turned 5.
The girls and I took a trip to California for my brother's wedding.


Tony began is new position at CIT Leasing Business Manger.
Big Brother turned 8.
The beginning of school: Big Brother in 2nd, Sweet Pea in kindergarten, and Little Man and Baby Girl in PreK


Little Man and Baby Girl turned 5.


We welcomed another nephew into the family.


We celebrated Thanksgiving with Tony's family


We enjoyed a trip to the Wisconsin Dells.

We said good-bye to a niece.

We celebrated Christmas with Tony's parents, my parents, and our special Bob and Carol.