Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Need is Great.

I can hardly believe that this month is coming to an end, TIME SLOW DOWN!!! May is foster care awareness month and I can’t let the month slip away without sharing my heart on this topic. One of the things I have realized in this journey is that I want to challenge the world’s perspective on what and who is fit to be a foster parent.

With 450,000 kiddos in the foster care system across the United States they need our help. Whether you are donating, volunteering or becoming a CASA, it really takes a village. These children are our future and addiction, abuse, instability and neglect are destroying them.

Since stepping into this world 3 ½ years ago, I realized the magnitude of the need. Over the years I have collected a variety of responses from people when they find out I am a foster parent. As I describe my eclectic family of 7 I have found that most people’s response often seem to come from one of two places; a guilty conscience of sorts or an over the top for enthusiasm that I am this “saint” doing an amazing thing. I am quick to brush off the “saint” comments not because I can’t take a compliment but because in all honesty I am not a saint, I am just willing. There is nothing more special about me that makes me more capable than anyone else. The longer I am in this world, the more I see how much they need us and that fuels me.

My life has radically changed since stepping into this world, I walked through a door and saw things that changed my whole perspective about the world of foster care. I saw and heard things I can’t unsee, faces I can’t forget. I am writing this post, balancing my fearful pre-mom months with my adoptive/foster mom experiences. I will tackle some of the most common responses I get from people when they find out how I have built my diverse family. I will call them Naive Jules and Seasoned Jules.

“I have thought about doing foster care but I haven’t because…”

“...I could never say goodbye.”

This one was so hard for me and honestly my greatest fear, Naive Jules would lay awake at night knowing my heart was going to break. I spent the first several months of my parenting experience being territorial, insecure, clutching tightly to any security I could grasp. Little One leaving the first time was my first loss experience, I sobbed as I prepared to have her exit our home in two short hours. I grieved and grieved, that one was a sucker punch to the soul, my heart physically ached for months. That struggle produced really good fruit in my soul, I came back stronger, braver and with more love.

One year later when Little One left our home for the second time (she came back to us 7 months after leaving the first time) my Seasoned Jule’s hand began to loosen it’s grip, I was beginning to figure out my heart a bit. Learning how to love well and let go. The crew and I had a conversation the other day about the price of love, how costly it is but how worth it. I have learned this is true. The cost of loving well means that my heart aches a lot. I feel things deeply and really have very little control over this heart of mine. It isn’t easy, counting down days to goodbye, wondering each time the phone rang if it was bad news, dreading each court hearing, all while fighting the thoughts that plagued my mind. I have learned that the more I love somehow the more love there is. When Baby was just 2 weeks old I remember holding him and just sobbing realizing that I had “accidentally” fallen in love with him. I knew the cost of that reality, it was going to hurt like hell to say goodbye. The truth is I fall hard and fast for all of them, I see the risk, I know the risk. My soul knows that loving them well into a place that hurts is a risk. They deserve me to take that risk, for I may be the only heart out there that breaks for them.

“...I worry about the influence of foster kids on my kids.”

Now, I must start this portion with the perspective that both Naive and Seasoned Jules does not have the desire for biological kids, nor do I have any biological kiddos. I recognize my perspective is slightly different on this one, I have built my family entirely through adoption/foster care. My children are 100% percent my children, I do not imagine I would love them any differently if they were grown in my womb but what I do realize that there is a level of innocence that exists in children who have not been traumatized.

Most of my children have come to me with pre-existing conditions of trauma, I spend most of my parenting trying to rewire their neural pathways and pack in innocence. I think my experience with bringing perfect Baby Boy home from the hospital has taught me how to parent an innocent, “pure,” clean slate, sweet baby. That reality stirs in me a whole new layer and desire to protect from everything, in hope that he doesn’t ever experience a fraction of what his siblings have. Naive Jules was able to just love kiddos well with no concern on the change it would have for other children in the home. Seasoned Jules has watched as our family has grown by another 3 after the adoption of the crew.

Our journey into foster care has switched from my journey to our journey, we love well as a family. I have watched the beautiful gift of my Crew opening wide to love new members of our family. They jump in wholeheartedly and with such grace and compassion, they inspire me. I have realized what a missed opportunity this would have been had I not allowed us to do this together. I am confident I am raising a crew that knows how to love well, that is compassionate and kind. They have learned to live with arms wide open, beckoning the world around them. They know first hand the ache and fear these little people feel.

“...my spouse would never agree to it.”

Naive and Seasoned Jules don’t have a spouse, so in this realm I make the decisions for my family cautiously stepping to ensure I keep us safe, balanced and thriving. I don’t factor in a spouse’s opinion but I do let my crew share their opinion on us taking calls on kiddos.

If you have a spouse who isn’t ready to jump into foster care there are so many ways you can help. You can get certified to do respite care, which is temporary care to help support foster parents. You can befriend a foster family and support them in tangible ways, join them for dinner and hang out, read with the kids and playing sports. You can volunteer for organizations like CASA, who advocate for kiddos. There are so many ways you can support this system beyond being a foster parent.

“...someday.”

Naive Jules rode this statement my entire 20’s knowing I would do it someday but couldn’t imagine myself doing it as a single woman. Seasoned Jules realizes this journey has been hard yet, I believe that you will be blessed if you choose to step into this world. You will be challenged, changed and be pressed. You will see fruit unlike any other, born from seasons of great pruning and storms. The need is great and the time is limited. Yes, there will always be kiddos in foster care but for every kid that ages out of the system without the stability of a forever family enters into society, repeating the same cycle of brokenness. These children, here and now are our future.

“...I am worried about the behaviors these kids have.”

Naive Jules feared the things that I saw in the news, those stories that happen and make you sick. Like most things the media highlights the worst. There are some kiddos who have been hurt by life experiences and they have never recovered, that paired with unhealthy coping skills can be toxic. There are kiddos who have remained sweet despite the hard road they have walked. There is no such thing as a ruined kid, a broken kid or even a lost cause. These kids are hurting and have experienced things that most adults couldn’t process, trauma mixed with minimal coping skills makes for some pretty rough behaviors but I have found that stability, love and structure heals a multitude of hurts. It is not easy, it isn’t always a happy ending but in the small daily wins, when you see them start to change you are reminded to hope.

If your heart is stirred for foster care, orphans or adoption, press in. The need is great. 


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Something's Gotta Give

I am often approached with, “how do you do it?” To be honest I never quite know what to say. These past three years I have yet to find my answer so I default to my normal response of laughter paired with a shrug it off joke. One day, one diaper, one night, really one step at a time. At some point it becomes my new normal and I kind of self regulate. Like stretching our bodies to run farther and lift more, you just do it one step and pound at a time. One day you wake up and realize you can do more. I don’t know how I do it exactly, I just do it.

Logistically, I run a tight ship, we are mostly organized, all hands on deck, responsibilities for everyone, a one warning at best, kind of a family. I have consistently followed through on the small things so big things usually resolve with a warning. I overpack and over prepare. My three older for sure are incredible assets, they help put on little shoes and hold hands. I fight to protect them reminding them to be kids not caretakers, a hard habit to break in neglected children. Having three in diapers dependent on me to get them dressed has kicked my prepping skills into overdrive, which will come in handy if that whole zombie apocalypse happens.

Realistically, each addition into our family causes a ripple effect, something’s gotta give. Each child comes a price tag so to speak, since my first three came as a packaged deal, I really bulked up my muscles fast. It was painful at first, I was sore, so sore. Overnight, I had to saw the cost of this calling, my social calendar, my time and resources, sleeping in and sitting on a couch doing nothing. My life evolved overnight, rapidly changing it was hard. Reality sunk in as I began being locked in my house each evening after 7pm. I had to say no to going out with friends, I learned what tired really was, these days I hardly recognize myself. 

After the initial three came in it was really easy to accommodate a fourth, fifth and sixth, I was in my rhythm and adding to it really just made it richer. As a coffee roaster my job was to roast each coffee to the best flavor profile. One of the things about roasting is each roast follows a pattern. As you roast coffee the combination of time and temperature releases certain notes and “flavors” you manage your roast by determining how long to keep in the heat, knowing the heat is what uncovers what you want.

That is how I view this journey, it’s like each kiddo that comes along, knocks loose another flavor. With the first three came lots of change, refining and purging. I was changing rapidly and it was hard and painful at times. The next several kiddos brought waves of patience, compassion and grace, much sweeter.

In the midst of sheer chaos, exhausting days and double grocery carts (one for kids, one for groceries) I am finding such peace. So in this season whatever I am giving up is resulting in a rich and plentiful harvest.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Happy Happy Birthday Sweet Charly!

C-Caring
Your heart is so big,you inspire me as you ask the world around us “how they are today?”.

H-Helpful
You are always there ready to help, in the kitchen or with your brothers and sisters. You are always offering your time to others.

A-Ambitious
You dream big. I watch in awe as you share your dreams and what you want to be when you grow up. Go get it girl!

R-Rock Star
You are awesome, you inspire the world around you, you rock girl!

L-Loyal
You are so forgiving, you offer grace often and forgive quickly.

O-Open Hearted
You love well, your heart is so open to those around you.

T-Trustworthy
You know a lot but you steward it well.

T-Tough
You are strong!

E-Extraordinary
Love, you blow me away. You have been created for such a time as this to live out a calling with such purpose.

I love you sweet girl, happy 10th birthday!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Top ten ways my life has been changed by becoming a mama

10- No more privacy. I always wondered why my mom would lock the bathroom door and scream I just want 2 minutes alone.  The house is quiet, all the kids are occupied so I seize the moment to use the restroom. Like a SWAT team following an ankle bracelet I am found and suddenly, everyone remembers to tell me all the things they never knew they always wanted.  The house is quiet, all the kids are playing and then I slip away to use the restroom. Within minutes, like a SWAT team following an ankle bracelet, I am found and the door is nearly beat down. Suddenly in my absence, everyone remembers to tell me all the things they never knew they always wanted. I am convinced kids have very selective super hearing, they hear the candy wrappers crinkle and the bathroom door close.

9- Nights out with friends have evolved into movie nights in blanket forts. I love our community, we have a lot of friends who have adapted with our ever changing family. Friends who come read stories, eat dinner and love us well. I adore our Friday ritual of pizza and movies.

8- My cute red Focus was traded in for a light blue Town and Country, we affectionately named Elsa. That step took my final carefree single woman card, I clutched the card, slightly hesitant to give it up. The vehicle search has taken on a whole new reality, I spend my Saturday nights drooling over 12 passenger vans, Nissan's new model is so sleek and so sexy (well, as sexy as a 12 passenger van can be). My children currently can all touch each other while we are driving, this must change!

7-I no longer communicate using complete thoughts or sentences. Parent brain is a thing, I think our brains click on and the hyperproductivity causes speech delay and confusion. I often lay in bed at night recalling all of the half sentences and conversations I said that day. I don't think I have had an complete conversation in 3 years.

6-I have learned there is no such thing as a lost cause. I have seen bonds built after 9 months of intense therapy. I have seen babies change in a matter of weeks. I have seen fears fade into nothing. There is always hope for healing.

5-Every thing in my home is suddenly sticky and/or wet. I would say at least 80% of my sentences start with the phrase, “why is this…”

4-I have fought hard to be a voice for those who have been silenced. I have learned to petition for my children. To advocate for foster care. To allow fears to be shared and stories to be heard.

3-I hear myself say all of the things, I swore I never would. We all have those phrases we pledged never to say, I say them all and some creative ones I’ve made up. I love teaching my children irony by shouting, “don’t scream at your sister.”

2-My interior design style is a mix of chic meets montessori preschool classroom with a bit of glitter for flair. I have learned to create a space that encourages learning but also doesn’t scream mom. This past week, we had a craft gone bad and ¼ cup of glitter was spilled on our carpet. As we all know glitter spreads like wildfire, so these days our home has a bit more shimmer.

1-I have seen first hand the joy of intentional love building a family. Bringing my children into the future plans for our family has been beautiful. We continue to open our home to foster care, however now we are doing it together. It has been a joy watching my children welcome in new little ones, they do so with such warmth, love and grace. I am praying that I raise a few kids who are a little more kind, loving and open because of foster care. That they would be secure in their future while always aware of their past. Reminding them to always remember everyone has a story.


Thank you to all the women who have shaped me, challenged me, believed in me and loved me so well.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Gotcha!

We are one year down as the Klepfer Clan. Today is our first year celebrating our “Gotcha Day!” How different it all was one year ago, so much has changed.

Our home looks different these days, we have had an ebb and flow of loved ones come and go. We Have gotten really good at loving well and proficient with goodbyes. We have opened our home to more that we may love well. We have united as a family in this calling to provide a space for people to come, as they are.

The Klepfer crew causes quite the scene these days when we walk into places. Our cuteness intoxicates the world around us, as we wow people with our charm and manners. We hardly make it through a store unnoticed, receiving several comments about how full my hands are but how well behaved this crew is.

This last year has taught me so much about healing and hope. I have a constant reminder in my world that hope is alive. The reality is so fresh and present in my world that the story is never over. Watching as another chapter unfolds.

A dear friend sent me flowers this week, written on the card. “All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” -Helen Keller

Helen Keller, a woman who had a lot of overcoming to do. Her insight into the state of this world is accurate. My journey into foster care has taught me more than anything else, the level of broken that exists. That hard reality is met with the beautiful paradox of healing. Adoption is a picture of that healing. For us it brought a wave a peace, security and healing to our souls. We were committed through it all and in order to be successful we must work together.

Adoption is bittersweet, it is not the happily ever after that it sometimes appears to be. You see adoption exists because a biological parent cannot or will not care for their children, it is literally born from brokenness. My crew will always carry the very real wound that they were not wanted or worth fighting for. Those lies are what we fight hard against and the very thing my mama heart can not fix.

I often find myself in awe that this crew is mine. The weight of adoption is not lost on me. The struggle and ache that exists in the midst of this beautiful broken reality reminds me that everything can be redeemed.

Our story is still unfolding, we are navigating the hard conversations and the ripples of adoption even a year later, new wounds keep showing just when I think we have healed. The ache of lost bio parents, being different and siblings split apart, weigh us down.

Adoption has shown me what can happen when we step in and advocate for those who have a small voice, those who know great loss and overcome the hardest of days. As I look at my diverse family of 7, our story complex with three baby mamas and lots of wounds in the mix I am overwhelmed by the beautiful gift I have been blessed with. The gift that reminds me that hope is alive and that we can overcome. That we will.










Sunday, May 7, 2017

Little Tired Souls

I barely recognize our home these days, we have been painting and creating the atmosphere of a new space. We have grown by 8 finned, furry and feathered friends, and one little weary human soul. Worn and heavy from the life experiences he has had these past three years. These past several years in foster care have taught me many things, like how to spot the signs of a neglected child. Little heavy dark eyes, worn exhausted bodies and little souls that are full of experiences and secrets that would make most of us shudder, stories unique but the result is the same.

These days my home is filled with contrast, from the varying wall colors, fuzzy chirping friends to my confident secure crew of three years. The Little One who comes on the weekends, Our Baby who entered our home just 4 days old is about to turn over 5 months and he explodes joy and light. The lightness and joy of my crew is so different than the presence of Little Man, his spirit so heavy.

I love the view of our home these days, all around we have very tangible lessons on hope, thriving and redemption. In the midst of each day I see the contrast of where we have been and what is possible with love, security and healing. I have always prided myself on the pleasure of variety, I delight in a little mix of everything. Early in my parenting a well meaning stranger looked at my crew and then me, with question in his tone he asks,

“These yours (gesturing towards my children)?”
“Yes!!!” 
“Sure are a lot of colors.”
“Thank you, I like a variety.”

I can’t help but notice the difference between Baby who I brought home from the hospital and the rest of the crew that experienced years of abuse, neglect and trauma before entering my home. For Baby my parenting experience has been pouring in, answering cries, nourishing his body and celebrating his wins. For the rest of the crew my role as mom has been those things plus detective, therapist, coach, doctor, voice of reason, and excavator of the heart.

Little Man has the body of a 3 year old and the soul of man, who has seen and lost so much. A man who is tired and worn. His body shows the scars of neglect and the pathways of his brain have been wired to survive. He is settling in, each day his tired eyes light up a little more, his smile widens and his body heals.

He has been with us two weeks, the bags under his eyes are fading, his eyes are engaged and his smile beams. We are settling in and working through each other quirks. He is learning that I mean what I say and if he wants ice cream he has to eat his carrots. His laugh is contagious and the way he says, ”oh” with a shoulder shrug and smirk warms my heart.

I have heard so often how resilient children are, they can heal and change faster than us. It is in the past two weeks I am reminded how true that is, just a couple of days you can see them bloom. You notice it first in the eyes, they engage and brighten. Then it travels to their smiles and finally you see in them, freedom to be and that is when you know that the deep healing is happening.

This is a sweet season, our hearts, rooms and van are full. Daily we dwell in the balance of structured chaos and adventure. Each sunrise beckons us towards the realities of the day ahead, reminding us that there is hope.