Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Family Album- Part One

There are large pieces of my crew's life that I will never get to document. I love taking pictures and documenting our lives, I missed a lot of life those early years. My kiddos love to see pictures and hear stories of when they were younger. Due to a few crashed computers and broken phones some of our items have been lost but here are a few I found tonight.

These pictures have never been shared on social media in their entirety. There were so many moments those first couple of years documented but not shared. I thought this would be fun before too many of the memories slip away! 

Behind the scenes of our first round of family pictures. Spring 2015 I had been mom 9 mos,
these were taken one week after Little One left for the first time. 

Kennedy she was such a tiny peanut, her nickname in this season was "Bean." 

Cutie boy missing teeth

The day Charlotte was baptized. It was a special day, her birthmom was able to come as well as lots of our loved ones. 

First Day of Kindergarten and 2nd Grade 

First Day of Preschool, her backpack was bigger than she was 

Meeting our cousin. 

Halloween 2015 

Family Hike, Little One was returned to our home just days before this. 

One of my favorite pictures, I had no idea what was in store for me. 
Easter 2016, found matching dresses for the girls. 

Our first family photo, Kennedy was off playing to right picking flowers.
I had been mom 1 day in this photo.

Celebrating friends getting married. December 2015

Ice Skating December 2015

Princess and her pups! 

First Baseball Game! Summer 2015

Two places at once, Iowa and Nebraska state line 

Skateboard birthday present. She was a natural.

CUTE! Daniel age 6

Monday, August 28, 2017

In Her Eyes

Tonight I got the update on what our first few days of school have been like from the perspective of a six year old.

I learned in first grade they don’t give you snacks anymore. Which seems to be a crime because they all are so hungry.

I learned that they can earn tickets for making good choices during the day. She has so many tickets like 35, 20...I mean 13 (she takes after her Mama #exaggeration).

Farting in class still makes her friend’s laugh.

At recess they play a game where someone hides and everyone else looks for them. “It is the best game.

I am afraid my middles are getting lost in the midst of our daily chaos. Tonight my Little Beauty followed me room to room as I changed diapers, made bottles and packed bags. Reading me a book as she went, she just wanted my attention for a moment. In a flurry of activity one of my kiddos was returned from a visit, a baby was crying and the clock read bedtime, I sent her to bed. With tears in her eyes she obeyed, but “Mama, I just wanted to read you my story.”

I do my best to carve out time for each of my kiddos every day but some days it is a miracle that we get our physical needs met let alone emotional needs. Some weeks baths, folded laundry and well balanced meals are mirages, things hoped for but often non existent.

I got everyone else in bed and squared away, found the book she was trying read to me and climbed into her bed. A smile spread across her face and she began to read all about what the Brown Bear sees. I just watched her come alive, she told me all about the things she is excited about.

I soaked her in, just enjoying who she is. With her two front teeth missing, she talks bigger these day, I wonder where my meek little girl went. Laughing as she came alive, talking about the boy in her class and how much she loves butter.

She asked me tonight just how long forever was. Wondering if it was more days than she had been alive, probably.

She told me how she loves to snuggle with me and that one time I snuggled with her sister and not her and she was so sad.

She doesn’t want to share me, except with Baby Boy. He needs me.

She knows that I love her forever and she will never lose my love.

In the name of us getting stuff done we have a lot of routine and structure around here. I tend to put a lot of focus on our routine, I think because it helps me feel like I am not drowning. At times I over do it, I stick to the routine at all costs. These past few years as a Mama is teaching me how precious time is. They are not always going to want to snuggle with me and conversations won’t always come so easily.

These are the moments that are short and sweet and I want to savor them. A friend of mine who is a single parent really challenged me in my keeping structure at all costs mindset. I have watched him put the experience of his kids ahead of the structure. While I think it needs both to balance these days I am wanting to do less and be more.

I am inspired by this Beauty, her eyes sparkle as she charms the world around her. May she never lose her wonder. She inspires me to be more. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Happy First Birthday Little Cub!

I am writing this in the last hour of the day, I am a tad bit late. This morning had no special significance to us even just a couple of months ago, but one Little Dude came into our life and brought significance to August 23rd. 

Happy 1st Birthday to our Little Bear Cub.

Dearest Little Cub,

I have not had the honor of knowing you long. I have prepared a place for you in my heart, a place to rest. I am not sure how long we will walk this road together. I am still getting to know you. I am still collecting sweet moments with you, cherishing the smiles and laughs. I am learning your story and what your cries mean. You have had quite the year of life, a year filled with loss. Your presence in our home has brought healing, joy and lots of baby gates.

You keep me on my toes, exploring the world around you. May you never lose your WONDER. You help strengthen my biceps, wrestling in my arms constantly. May you never lose your STRENGTH. You challenge my speed on swapping diapers. May you never lose your DETERMINATION. You are my daily wake up call, bringing me forth with a holler from my sweet slumber. May you never lose your INITIATIVE. You keep us laughing and smiling. May you never lose your CHARM. 

Happiest Birthday Sweet Little Cub, may this year bring stability, safety and joy to you. May you find peace in the midst of change and challenge. May you always remember you are loved well. 


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Open.

“Oh man Jules, you are like a cat lady but a kid lady”

Somewhere between 4 & 7 kids SOME people’s view shifted from “what a good thing I was doing” to the “haven’t you had enough there are other foster parents out there?!?” While these comments do not hurt my feelings, nor do I pause much more than a moment on them, doing a quick heart check. We are not drowning, I am not yet at capacity. I am delighted in the beautiful chaos of our home.

Laundry is a mountain to constantly tackle. Dinner time a production that will challenge any catering team. Coffee is no longer enjoyed hot for fear the babies will slap it out of my hand. Our days are choreographed around naps, snacks and activities.

My journey into parenting has been different from most, in three years I have found myself the mother of seven children. The nudge came when I was 27, following a year where I was dreaming big, being intentional and seeking purpose. In a matter of a month everything changed, I heard, I answered and I pressed in. Beginning a season of life that would be the most challenging, beautiful and redemptive chapter of my life. Less than 6 months later I was licensed and the placements came.

I am often asked “what is your secret, how do you do this?” The reality is I am not superhuman nor have I figured out the secret I can share. What I can tell you is that overnight I became a mom to three very hurting and traumatized children, ages 7, 5, and 3. I didn’t have time to prep, I didn’t have time to think, to fear, it was all hands on deck and survival was the goal. I often contribute that to my ability to keep growing my family as a single woman. We have the physical space, the vehicle space and definitely the heart space, so when the call is right we say “yes!”

So...when is enough? When do we say no more. Do we always say yes when it comes to adoption? I believe if I have the space and if it will not harm our family’s eco-system I will say yes. There are some realities like physical space and the ability to care for everyone’s needs. I have learned to be thoughtful and cautious each time we add someone else to the family. I take assessments on our dynamics and decided when the timing is right. I also know that even now my seven are not all forever Klepfers. Once we incorporate someone into our home I don’t know what it will look like to say no when adoption becomes an option. I do know that I want to remain a foster parent which means I need to keep our family under 8. I also know that foster care is not going anywhere and I do not need to completely build a family any time soon. We have many many more years of littles coming, going and staying.

I don’t know when our enough is, but I can tell you that we are building something good here. I am being changed by these little ones, each victory, smile, hand in mine challenges my perspective. Birth parents, the goodbyes and the hello agains, the stories have broken me in all the right ways. Watching my crew just open arms love the world around them, welcoming each kiddo in with such warmth. My crew challenges me to love better and therefore my answer is we have not had enough, cause there is still more love to give, to have and to share.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Living the Dream...

I have had the realization that I officially have a large family, I am one of those people who I have long admired. I am living my dream of 6-12 kids, on a ranch, only instead of a ranch we are an Urban Farm family with 6 chickens.There are SEVEN of us half the week and the other half there are EIGHT, it kind of snuck up on me. I mean I noticed the extra people in our home, I just think I kept saying let’s make room and then we kept filling that room.

As all parents know, parenting is pure survival. We shouldn’t judge one another or compare to others because we all are using our strengths and skills the best we can to survive. My personality is driven to succeed, once I feel I am surviving I take it to the next level challenging myself to thrive. I don’t like living in chaos or the crazy cycle so once I feel that coming on, we make changes. As a family we have adapted quickly to the many changes we have experienced these last three years.

This large, beautiful family is my reality, my norm. I am very aware of just how big we are every time we step into a store, every time I sit down to pay bills and every time I leave my crew with a multiple sitters cause I have to divide and conquer. I have discovered that I am parenting at a new frequency and some things in our world have changed.

I have had to adapt jumping from just 4 kids in January to 7 kids today.

Time: This one is tricky, still no matter how hard I want there to be more I still only get 24 hours in one day. My goal each day is to spend one on one with each kiddo. A story here, a snuggle there, making sure that each of my kids is touched and heard throughout the day. I am a physical touch extroverted person, I usually am always able to pour out for my crew and have some left over for the other people in my world. I also encourage my crew to love on each other, the bigger ones read stories, snuggle and hold little ones as they cry when I can’t. I am realizing that I am raising some really kind, compassionate kiddos. We strive to see others around us.

Chores:The whole crew from 10 to 2 chips in. I use a lot of non toxic cleaners in my home using (vinegar, essential oils and Norwex towels). My kiddos all help out, cleaning windows, vacuuming, dusting and caring for the animals. They help set the table, sweep the floors, fill cups and get snacks. We do family cleaning sessions where we crank up the music and divide up the chores and go. Letting your children do chores not only teaches them but helps you. We are not a family where this mama does it all, there is no benefit to that. I have learned however that I must lower my expectation, my 6 year old sweeps the entry way very different than I do. I don’t let her off the hook for a job poorly done but I also allow her best effort to be enough, which means its’ not perfect or how I would do it often.

Going Out: That is a full time job in and of itself, a day out takes quite a bit of prep, especially with 4 Three and under. I feel like a day out is like end of the world apocalypse prepping every time. It takes quite a bit of time to get everyone loaded up and buckled (4 car seats) so we can go. Big kids are self sufficient and getting the littles ready is an assembly line of sorts. Lining everyone up and changing diapers, swapping pajamas for clothes and feeding them in bulk fashion. Usually I am shouting at the slow poke upstairs, while wrestling a baby alligator (baby who loves to roll over during changing) and telling a toddler “no more snacks” while herding chickens out of the house. Our mornings are certainly not peaceful but it is a beautiful, productive kind of chaos. Being a single parent means my kids come with me when I grocery shop or have to run in the store real quick. We have a system in parking lots we buddy up, big kids pair off with little kids while I wear one baby in and hold the other. We work together, I am always reminding them that there are people around us so we have to be aware of where we are going and how we are walking. Once we are inside the store I use carts to fight chaos and fatigue: baby in the seat, baby being worn and two toddlers in the cart. I love Aldis and other retailers for they have double carts which means more room for groceries and such in the actual cart.

Grocery Shopping: Snack time around our place is entire bags of chips, box of crackers and package of granola bars. A week’s worth of groceries contains several bunches of bananas, 2 packages of noodles and 2 dozen eggs. I am still adjusting our numbers here, our budget amount is much higher than I planned before and we really pack out the cart when shopping, by the time we get to the register all of the kids are holding things that couldn’t fit into the cart.

I have discovered something else that has changed as well, we seem to get a lot of attention when we go out. People ask questions, smile and stare and try to figure out exactly what all is going on here. I am so proud of my little family, they all work so hard to be kind, hard working and considerate. Lately, I have seen a whole new side of my crew, I have seen ownership. I think it has been incredibly healing for my older three to be the oldest. They feel the boldness to share how we do things in our home, they are no longer guests here. It has been really beautiful to observe that as they love on littles, help around the house and share me they have found their confidence as a Klepfer.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Boundaries

“I am not happy that my birth parents chose the things that they did over us, but I am so happy you are my mommy.”

Tears streamed down my cheeks overwhelmed by the emotion I felt for this incredible child. The fact I get to be their mom and the harsh reality our story is at times leaves me overwhelmed. Our conversation unfolded when I made the choice to set a boundary with a birth parent being invited to an event. I asked them why they wanted their birth parent there, so I knew how to explain the boundary I was setting.

After they finished I asked if I could be honest about how I felt about it all. I shared that I was struggling with the fact that sometimes I needed to set boundaries. I explained how a huge part of my job as their mama, is to keep them safe and they will not always understand that may even be upset with me. I sat down on their floor handing them a lollipop and began sharing the next level of conversation. Talking about the choices their birth parents made, choices that got us all where we are today.

The conversation left us both in tears as we talked about the reality of addiction, the boundaries we have to set and the fact that our story will always be complicated. The balance of bitter and sweet will fill our days as our story is written. I shared some of the facts and figures about addiction and how hard it is to fight against. I shared how our future could possibly look.

We talked about the boundaries and the reason we have them. I explained how sometimes when we welcome people into our space and places it can steal some of our joy. I explained to them how I had to start “reclaiming” some of my favorite places following a breakup, many of my favorite places now cause my heart to ache because I shared them and made memories. Untangling that heart mess is a long road and I want them to be spared that reality. I want us to be smart and thoughtful as we welcome birth parents into our lives. When people come into our worlds, we are left changed by their presence, no matter the length of their stay. Some people hurt a little more to say goodbye to while others just kind of fade.

I encouraged my child that I wanted to help them create space to love freely and without fear. They have the power to let in or to set a boundary. They get to know themselves, feel fully and allow others in as they see fit. One thing I shared is that our home will always be a boundary and it is very unlikely that we would ever have a birth parent enter our home. I want our home to be a sanctuary, a place of rest, peace and good things.

Walking this life with birth parents is not easy, especially birth parents who are addicts, statistics are not always in our favor. The longer I am in this world the more I despise the shackles of addiction. At first you think how could someone just choose drugs over their child. The dark reality is that at some point I think the choice disappears and they become conditioned to choose, use and lose. Three of my Baby Mamas are good mamas when they are sober, all of them desperately love their children. Using has become their escape and it is not a kind reality.

I pray each day to love my Mamas well. May I be humble and kind as I teach my kiddos that there is another way, praying we break the generational bondage of addiction. Desperating wanting my children to have a different story.